Close, but no cigar: Bears lose games at UC Davis, San Diego State

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During Sunday’s game at San Diego State, all eyes were on the draw circle. Cal midfielder Sophia Cerino had just converted on a free-position shot to pull the Bears within one goal of tying with 26.9 seconds remaining in the game. Freshman Kennedy Goss lined up on one end and SDSU midfielder Avonna Usher on the other, with two potential outcomes: Either Cal would win the draw and have a chance to tie the game, or San Diego State would run out the rest of the clock.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be for the blue and gold, as Usher scooped up the ball and bled out the clock. It encapsulated a weekend that saw Cal come close to pulling out victories in two games but couldn’t get it done in either case. The blue and gold lost 12-10 against UC Davis on Friday, and fell to SDSU 11-10 in an Easter Sunday showdown.

Sophomore midfield duo Amanda Morse and Maya Lawliss ruled the weekend, but they were unable to overcome significant runs by the Aggies and Aztecs. On Friday, Morse notched her first career hat trick, with her first goal tying the game at three apiece. But the joy of earning that first goal was short-lived, as UC Davis went on a 3-0 run in a span of just 1:48, bookended by scores from attacker Maddie Myers.

Morse also got in on the action late: After UC Davis led 12-7, Cal went on a 3-0 run, during which Morse scored her other two goals. Attacker Quinnlyn Mason spearheaded the rally, finding open teammates and facilitating for the offense. Ultimately, however, it was too little, too late for the Bears.

In Sunday’s match with SDSU, Lawliss scored a career-high four goals, but things only started to come together for the Oregon native after a 4-0 run by the Aztecs put them up 5-1. Two of Lawliss’ four goals came during a 4-0 run of Cal’s own, which knotted the game at nine after a 9-5 lead by San Diego State.

Her contributions were still not enough, however, as the Aztecs’ Camdyn O’Donnell assisted on a goal and scored another one to give her team an 11-9 lead before the gut-wrenching final draw for the Bears. Not only did the loss give SDSU a series sweep of Cal, but it also dropped the Bears to 3-6 all time when playing on Easter.

“We have done a really good job this year starting faster. I think it’s just trying to hold that momentum throughout the game that we need to work on,” Mason said about Cal’s propensity to allow big runs. “There are definitely glimpses and glimmers throughout the game when you would probably say we’re rolling, but there are good plays in there, and we’re working on capitalizing on them, and we’re moving in the right direction.”

Goals by both Bears midfielders showcased their abilities to find open spaces after double teams. Morse’s second goal in the match with UC Davis saw her take advantage of Aggies’ midfielder Ally Deremer’s double team on attacker Nikki Zacarro, when Morse cut inside the arc for a goal.

One of Lawliss’s two goals during Cal’s rally against SDSU involved her sliding from the far sideline to an open space after a double team of sophomore Olivia Dey. In her second goal, Lawliss cut inside from behind defender Annie Jubb, whose eyes were focused on a double team of senior Ashley Ward. But for Cal to find them, they had to hold onto the ball, something they must do a better job of after combining for 31 turnovers across the weekend’s two games.

After two consecutive losses, the Bears will play five of their last six games against Pac-12 foes. They are 0-5 against the conference, with a minus-50-point differential this season, so there may be a difficult stretch ahead. Cal will start by hosting Oregon, who bested the blue and gold 14-9 three weeks ago, and Colorado, who blew them out by 10 goals in a 15-5 game.

In order to win, the Bears must limit their fouls and penalties. While Cal only had one yellow card last weekend, which was against SDSU, it received three in each game against Oregon and Colorado. But with the Bears’ recent string of competitiveness, we might see a changing of the guard.

Ali Fazal covers lacrosse. Contact him at afazaldailycal.org.