Cal still seeking first Pac-12 win after weekend losses

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As the Bears walked out of the gates of Memorial Stadium on Sunday, a familiar reality hit them: For the second time this season, losses to Oregon and Colorado ran a Cal losing streak up to four. And, as they did in last weekend’s matches, the Bears had a chance to rally during the waning moments of these two games. Unfortunately for Cal, the endings turned out to be no different this time around.

Cal fell to the Ducks and Buffaloes by scores of 9-8 and 12-10, respectively. On Friday against the Ducks, the Bears fell into a 9-3 hole. Oregon had been making its mark on the draw control game, with Ducks midfielder Hanna Hilcoff corralling four out of the six face-offs during her team’s run. Oregon also took advantage of its stellar isolation play, as only two of its goals were unassisted.

Eventually, not only did the draws shift 5-1 in Cal’s favor, but the Bears also assisted on three of their five goals after not recording an assisted goal in the first half. As a result, Cal ripped off a 5-0 run to pull within one goal. All of a sudden, Cal had possession in a 9-8 game with 5.8 seconds remaining. A play that started from behind the goal, however, turned awry after a sea of Ducks defenders prevented the ball from ever reaching a stick.

“Coach pulled the attack aside and drew up a play where we had the ball right behind the goal, Nikki (Zaccaro) had the ball and then the plan was to stack the far elbow and hit the cutter off that elbow for a quick shot,” Cal sophomore Maya Lawliss said. “With only five seconds on the clock, it was definitely a really tough play, and we weren’t able to capitalize on it.”

A home tilt against Colorado didn’t end any better. After a hard-fought first half, the second half saw an offensive takeover for both teams — Cal goalie Lily Rathbun’s save percentage went from 50% to 27.2%, and Colorado’s Julia Lisella did not record a save in the second half.

The game was knotted at six with 23:02 left after Colorado’s Charlie Rudy — who netted seven goals in the previous meeting between these teams — used a dodge from the near side to get in position to score. The Buffaloes then used tough shots inside the arc to spur a 3-0 run, but Cal tied the game back up after three unassisted goals, with two of them coming from up top and one from behind the goal. However, Rudy, who was held scoreless in the first half, scored the go-ahead goal to break a 10-10 tie later in the game.

This time, turnovers undid Cal in the final moments, as it turned the ball over twice in a span of 1:30. With Colorado up 12-10 with 1:12 left, Lawliss turned the ball over after Lisella was able to check it away from her stick. In general, though, Lawliss has been a bright spot for the Bears, as she’s scored 11 goals in the last three games.

“It’s been super cool,” said Lawliss. “I switched from playing midfield to playing some attack, and it’s definitely given me an opportunity to work with the other attackers to try and create some stuff on the offensive side.”

Cal will need her heroics against USC on Friday at noon and Arizona State on Sunday at 1 p.m. A visit to Southern California will see a premier matchup in the draw control game, as the Trojans rank within the top 10 in the NCAA with 16.36 draws per game. With Sunday’s game behind them, the Bears have now have more draw controls than their opponents in nine of 13 games this season.

A matchup to watch against Arizona State will be the facilitating battle between Cal’s Zaccaro and the Sun Devils’ Emily Glagolev. Glagolev has 15 career games with three or more assists and has 24 total assists this season. Zaccaro, who is Cal’s all-time leader in assists per game and is top 10 in total assists in team history, had two assists in the previous meeting between these teams.

The last two weekends have seen Cal come close, but the team has not quite managed to get over the hump. Now, it’s time to see if the blue and gold can finally finish the job.

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