Despite fourth quarter struggles, No. 7 Cal fends off No. 14 UC Davis in overtime

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Overtime games are a prime opportunity for teams to demonstrate their resilience. It takes courage and fortitude for a road team to watch its lead crumble in the closing minutes of a game, compose itself and emerge victorious after extra time.

But that’s exactly what the Bears did Saturday.

It wasn’t a lethargic start that set the stage for the blue and gold’s late-game drama — who have managed to win dramatic matches against higher-ranked teams after slower opening periods. This marked the second consecutive game that Cal led at first quarter’s end.

The Bears led 2-0 after eight minutes of play thanks to a pair of goals by freshman attacker Ruby Swadling.

Swadling completed a hat trick before the first half’s end, and Cal took a 4-2 lead into the break. Senior attacker Kristina Garcia assisted on two of Swadling’s three goals, but had yet to make her biggest contribution to the team’s success.

Leading by four with less than five minutes remaining, the game seemed to be a sure win for the visiting blue and gold. But UC Davis wasn’t going down at home without a fight.

In a flash, the Aggies scored four unanswered goals in a span of less than two and a half minutes to push the game to overtime.

“It was upsetting that we had let them catch up to us because we know we’re the better team and we knew we were capable of winning,” Garcia said of the team’s mindset going into overtime. “It was a mixture of being upset, determined and frustrated. Everyone was really focused on making a comeback.”

It was Garcia who scored the decisive goal in overtime, the only score by either team. She also came up with a field block on the Aggies’ last possession.

“Going into overtime was unfortunate having been ahead by three or four points,” Garcia said. “I had just gotten ejected before they scored their last goal to tie, which was upsetting because it was unnecessary. I made a bad mistake and it led to a goal.”

Cal dropped an overtime thriller against UC San Diego at the Gaucho Invite in mid-January, but Garcia was determined to prevent another upset loss in extra time.

“My goal going into overtime was to counter and be available and make something happen,” Garcia said. “I didn’t necessarily need to be the one who scored, but it just so happened that I was able to get a jump on the defense and it just took that one goal and a stop at the end to get us our victory.”

Thanks to Garcia’s clutch play in the game’s waning moments, the Bears improved to 8-4 on the season. It was also Cal’s second official win against UC Davis, the third overall including the exhibition match between these two teams at the Stanford Invitational.

Juniors Brigit Mulder and Claire Sonne turned in solid performances as usual, combining for three goals, a pair of assists and three steals. Mulder and Sonne are currently tied for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation assists title, and are both top-10 scorers in the conference.

On Saturday, the Bears bared their teeth and showed that they wouldn’t back down from a challenge, even after having squandered a late lead on the road.

They will need to make similarly definitive statements to triumph at the upcoming Barbara Kalbus Invitational.

Ethan Moutes covers women’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].