The seasons are changing in Berkeley. The windy winters are taking a turn into the sun-filled spring and the Cal women’s lacrosse team is following suit and coming into full bloom.The Bears came away with two wins on their two-game road trip, turning their sluggish start into a two-game win streak. Early wins on the road say a lot about a team’s composure, and can even foreshadow success later in the season. The Bears got just their campaign off to a rough start on Feb. 14 and 16 with back-to-back losses. The story was different Feb. 21 at Mercer and Feb. 23 at Winthrop, however.
The Bears headed into Mercer with an 0-2 record after a 17-7 loss to No. 6 Virginia. Prior to this, the blue and gold lost their season opener to UC Davis 9-6 in their worst shooting performance of the season.
Nonetheless, the Bears got the job done in crunch time, forcing a turnover from Mercer late in the game to secure their first win of the season. Sophomore attacker Quinnlyn Mason, senior attacker Susie Ropp and junior attacker Nikki Zaccaro would all provide three goals of their own, squeaking by Mercer 11-10 in a game that went down to the wire.
Coming off a big victory at Mercer, Cal rolled into Winthrop on Sunday, winning 11-7 behind a more efficient offensive performance. The Bears have consistently improved their shooting percentage this season, which rocketed from .250% against UC Davis to .458% against Winthrop. Their current shooting percentage sits at .354% on the season, but this bodes well for a team that struggled early to find the back of the net.
Coming off two losses, Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks knew all too well the importance of this weekend.
“We played well against Virginia, despite what the score might imply, and our game against Davis I attribute to first-game jitters,” Eubanks said.
Road wins can make an enormous difference for a team off to a slow start. Although Cal would have a poor first half against Winthrop, at halftime they quite comfortably made adjustments and came into the second half a different team.
Both Cal and Winthrop had a mediocre first period, with the Bears scoring three times within the first 10 minutes, only to be shut out for the rest of the half. Those goals came in courtesy of Ropp and two sophomores, Mason and attacker Megan Mix. The blue and gold got the ball moving in the second half, though, using the break to make improvements and scoring 8 goals to take charge of the game.
Like the first half, the Bears put away three goals again in the first 10 minutes, the obvious difference in the second period being they kept scoring. One of these came again from sophomore Mix, who had a solid outing with two goals and one assist.
Winthrop would later lead a small surge to try and catch the Bears, scoring three goals to quickly end a scoring drought and cut the deficit to two.
The Bears wouldn’t be intimidated by this late run, adding two scores from Zaccaro, with sophomore midfielder Catherine Roxas and junior midfielder Ashley Ward getting on the score sheet as well. Winthrop would never lead in the game, with the final score tallying 11-7 in favor of the Bears.
After the game, Eubanks was proud of her Bears for closing out the road trip in strong fashion but remained focused on the rest of the season.
“The girls are excited, but we still have some work to do,” Eubanks said.
For a team that’s steadily improving, two road wins couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
The blue and gold return to action Friday at San Diego State with a start time of 5 p.m., hoping to close out that match with a victory that would push their win percentage past .500.
“We’re ready. We have this upcoming week to prepare and rest, [from the weekend] but we’re ready,” Zaccaro said. Zaccaro will no doubt be a reliable option this season as she leads the Bears in points and assists.
The Bears, much like the flowers in spring, are starting to bloom and come into form. Coach Eubanks is determined, Nikki Zaccaro is ready and the Bears are rolling. Spring is coming, and the Bears along with it.
Lucas Perkins-Brown covers lacrosse. Contact him at [email protected].