In a bittersweet ending to the 2020-21 spring season, Cal women’s soccer will play rival Stanford on Friday for one last hurrah — a Senior Day sendoff at Witter Rugby Field.
At the forefront of the celebration are seniors Whitney Davis, Kai Henderson and Morgan Rogers, all of whom were a part of the 2019 roster and opted out of playing this season.
Also graduating this semester is defender Kailee Gifford, a Bay Area local from San Jose who’s been with the team since her freshman year in 2017.
“It’s definitely going to be bittersweet to wear my jersey for the last time,” Gifford said via text message. “I’ve met the best people and had the best time playing for Cal soccer and I’m planning on soaking in every second on the field with my best friends for the final time.”
Alongside Gifford is another departing junior, Julia Curtis, a transfer student from Santa Clara.
“When I made the decision to transfer from Santa Clara to Cal in 2019, I was excited and nervous,” Curtis said via text message. “I feel so incredibly lucky because I have gotten to play with some of the smartest, strongest, and talented girls I have ever met.”
Though Cal’s recent stretch of games ended in disappointing results, the team remains poised for its upcoming match. After scraping together a 1-0 win over Stanford nearly a month ago, the Bears are perhaps more aware of their upcoming opponent’s offensive prowess than they have been all season long.
On March 20, Stanford took 21 shots to Cal’s four and earned a whopping 13 corners, but the Bears still earned the win. The difference maker in that game was undoubtedly sophomore goalkeeper Angelina Anderson.
Anderson earned nine flawless saves off of the Cardinal’s nine shots on target. In the 87th minute, she dove to the left goalpost at just the right time to save a penalty kick from forward Civana Kuhlmann. To stop the ball from getting to Anderson in the first place, Cal’s defense will have to be ready to win tackles and apply pressure to Stanford’s forwards. Because the reigning NCAA champions are looking for revenge against the Bears, expect experienced veterans like Gifford as well as defenders Emily Smith and Sydney Collins to put in a shift for the Bears’ backline.
Equally as important will be how Cal’s best forwards, Keely Roy and Emma Westin, perform. As the team’s top goal scorers with three goals each, expect them to fire off the most shots on target for the Bears. While Cal has struggled as of late to score goals — particularly against No. 3 UCLA and No. 19 USC — the team is looking to quickly turn the tide with an aggressive offensive tone.
“Our focus is to win more balls, like in the 18 (yard box), defensively and offensively, because we’ve already had the ball so much and dominated teams,” Roy said. “It’s just kind of finishing tightening up with our defense on corners.”
Should the Bears beat the Cardinal for a second time this season, it’ll be just their second time doing so in over eight years. But even with a victory in Berkeley, it is unlikely that Cal would earn a spot in the NCAA tournament, since it currently sits at 11th place in the Pac-12.
Nevertheless, the players are hopeful that they’ll give their fellow teammates an unforgettable sendoff.
“It just makes the game so much more important and has just such a deeper meaning and sentiment knowing how proud all of them are to be Bears,” Roy said. “All of them have been really involved throughout the years and it’s important to have their last memory be the best that it can be.”
Ryan Chien covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected]