Cal suffers heartbreak as leads vanish against USC, ASU

Photo of Cal Women's Lacrosse Player charging with the ball
Karen Chow/File

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Twice in the second half, USC midfielder Katie Ramsay drove inside the arc and put the ball in the back of the net. As the Trojans celebrated, an official pulled out a whistle and said just two words: “No goal.” Ramsay had stepped on the crease before shooting, nullifying both goals. It felt as if everything was going right for the Bears — that is, until it didn’t.

After going up early, Cal relinquished leads in a 12-11 overtime loss at USC and an 11-7 letdown at Arizona State. In a weekend that saw the Bears extend their losing streak to a season-worst six games, the team fell victim to second-half offensive explosions during comebacks by the two Pac-12 powerhouses it faced.

In the city of angels, the blue and gold rose angelically in the first half, using backside cuts en route to a 6-2 lead. Not only did Cal shoot 90% of its shots on goal after freshman Madison Waters put USC up 1-0, but it held the Trojans to just three on-goal shots.

In the second half, however, an unexpected source of production arose. Behind attacker Izzy McMahon — who scored three goals after not playing in the first half — USC scored four straight goals in less than nine minutes. During that span, the Trojans won the draw control battle all four times, and in the second half, they corralled 13 draws to the Bears’ two. USC also got off a whopping 23 shots, with 70% of them on goal, after just nine in the first half.

The game featured some last-minute drama, as Cal midfielder LizaBanks Campagna scored her first career goal on a free position shot to tie the game at 11 in regulation before USC’s Kelsey Huff drove inside for the winning goal in overtime.

At Arizona State, the Bears went up 3-1 after senior Marisa Kuberra slipped behind a defender during a free position shot to receive a feed and score. Sun Devils attacker Carley Adams, however, spurred a 3-1 run to tie the game at 4 after 30 minutes. After only attempting nine shots in the first half, ASU shot the ball 17 times in the second, with six different players scoring.

As a result, the Sun Devils scored three straight goals after being down 6-5 and never gave the lead up. Similar to the game against USC, Cal suffered as an opposing player came alive in the second half. This time, it was senior Emily Glagolev, who scored one goal and dished out two assists in the second half.

Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks spoke of the necessity to not only win the shot battle, but also get good quality shots.

“We focus on quality shots, not number of shots,” Eubanks said. “The more time on the shot clock, the more disciplined the offense. As the time ticks, we look for higher-risk opportunities.”

The team has little time to practice before its next game, as the blue and gold will take the field at UC Davis on Thursday at 5 p.m. PT instead of the usual Friday. Cal will then host Stanford for Senior Day on Saturday at 12 p.m. PT. In UC Davis’ last three games since getting its game against Stanford postponed, it has averaged 32 shots per game. The Cardinal, who have seen three of their past five games either postponed or canceled, have shown no signs of rust, averaging 29.5 shots on goal throughout their past two games.

Cal has dominated the first and second halves separately but never both. Eubanks is confident that her team can put everything together and play to the best of its ability for the duration of its upcoming games.

“We have moments of greatness and have been able to elongate these with each game,” said Eubanks. “We need to continue to focus on this to get to that complete game.”

The Bears will need to execute that complete game, or they will end the regular season with their longest losing streak since 2016.

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