Cal ignites against No.16 Arizona State, extinguished by Arizona

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Over the weekend, the Bears had a chance to bring the heat to the Arizona desert but only caught fire against one of their two opponents.

On Friday, Cal women’s soccer edged out No. 16 Arizona State in a double overtime thriller, 2-1. Two days later, it cooled down in a 1-0 shutout loss to Arizona.

“The win over a highly ranked Arizona State was the highlight, but playing double overtime took its toll,” head coach Neil McGuire said in an email. “Today versus Arizona we scored an unfortunate own goal which meant we had to chase the game the whole time and just couldn’t find a way to score.”

Forcing three corners in the first four minutes of action, the Bears put the pressure on the Sun Devils right out of the gate. Playing in a 5-3-2 formation, Cal was quick, kept the ball in its attacking third and spread the field.

But in the 35th minute, Arizona State struck first.

After a line drive header attempt by midfielder Alexia Delgado, which was saved by Cal goalkeeper Angelina Anderson, ASU retained possession. Seconds later, Delgado sent in a cross to midfielder Jazmine Wilkinson, who drilled a header right underneath the cross bar and into the back of the net.

Coming out of halftime down 1-0, Cal restarted its offensive charge with wingers Keely Roy and Amaya Gray paving the way forward. In the 68th minute, freshman forward Rilee Harmon’s shot hit the crossbar and Roy followed the shot, guiding the ball into the net with her right foot. Her equalizer marked her second goal of the season.

With the game tied in the 90th minute, both teams regrouped for what would become two overtime periods. Going tit-for-tat in attempted shots, Cal eventually ended the game in the 102nd minute with a golden goal. Sprinting towards the goal, Gray slotted the ball past ASU goalkeeper Giulia Cascapera off a cross from midfielder Kaylee Nguyen.

At the end of the night, Cal tallied 22 total shots to Arizona State’s 20. Along with Roy and Gray, Anderson’s performance was nearly flawless. The sophomore tallied 10 saves with only one goal allowed for a stunning save percentage of 90%.

“When we go into overtime we ask the players to play with courage and really go for it,” McGuire said in an email. “We added an additional attacker which helped. We also joked ‘don’t be last to the dog pile’ as a visual representation of what winning will feel like.”

Come Easter Sunday, Cal aimed to continue its hot streak against Arizona at Murphy Field. But for all 90 minutes of action, the Bears failed to heat up in Tucson’s 90 degree weather.

In short, Arizona did what Cal failed to do: create offensive chances. In just the 11th minute of the match, Arizona took the lead when Wildcats forward Jada Talley’s shot got past a stumbling Anderson after a through-ball assist from forward Jillienne Aguilera. Minutes later, Cal defender Kailee Gifford tried her luck with a long-range shot of her own but missed wide right.

All the while, Arizona’s back line — led by Ava McCray, Mariah Dunn and Ava Hetzel — forced the Bears to take poor shots, few of which tested goalkeeper Hope Hisey. In nine total shots taken, the Bears put just two on target. With time expiring and little to no gas left in the tank, their short-lived, flaming start in Arizona was extinguished in a 1-0 loss to the Wildcats.

Now 5-4-1, Cal will be back in Berkeley next weekend to face a tough slate of opponents in No. 4 UCLA and No. 19 USC. With a spot in the NCAA tournament on the line, the Bears are hoping to recover just as quickly as they did in preparation for their two road games in Arizona.

“We win as a team and we lose as a team,” McGuire said. “There is room for improvement in both wins and losses and we will look for those adjustments this week.”

Ryan Chien covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].