Can Cal salvage season after being swept by UC Davis, Stanford?

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Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

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Memorial Stadium’s doors are now closed to Cal lacrosse for the rest of the spring. But as one door closes, another one opens. That open door will lead to Laird Q. Cagan Stadium in Stanford, the site of the 2021 Pac-12 tournament.

Prior to the conference tournament, the Bears need to make some adjustments. UC Davis, who blasted Cal 14-4 last Thursday, and Pac-12 regular season champion Stanford, who handled the Bears in a 9-7 contest on Senior Day, both completed season sweeps of the blue and gold. After scoring at least 10 goals in five of their last seven games prior to this weekend, the Bears only scored 11 goals combined against the Aggies and Cardinal. These were just the latest blows to a Cal squad that now sports an 0-10 record in conference play.

Against the Aggies, the Bears started slow, conceding five goals over a 13-minute span and giving up seven consecutive draw controls early on. Cal never got closer than a 1-2 deficit. After UC Davis took a 5-2 lead, attacker Sorana Larson, who racked up five goals, helped the Aggies score six straight goals to go up by nine. UC Davis made its mark on the offensive end, as its first 12 goals were unassisted.

A flurry of free position goals, drives inside the arc and back-ups of missed shots created extra Aggie offensive possessions. In contrast, any possessions that the Bears mustered hit brick walls. UC Davis goalkeepers Ashley Laing and Taylor Mathieson both recorded save percentages of 0.67 in one half of action apiece.

Saturday’s match against Stanford started out more competitive, as the Cardinal led by just one at halftime. And unlike Thursday, the blue and gold kept up with their opponents and even took a second-half lead at one point. When Stanford stormed back, Cal didn’t flinch, knotting the game up at 6-6 with under five minutes left in regulation. Although the Cardinal got more possessions by virtue of winning the majority of draw controls, the Bears kept it close by causing 12 of their rivals’ 19 turnovers.

But once again, Cal lost control in the final minutes. Stanford used a 3-1 run to go up 9-7, and the blue and gold’s attempt to make it a one-goal game failed after senior Nikki Zaccaro’s perimeter shot was waved off due to a dangerous follow-through. The game extended two losing streaks the Bears would like to forget; they finished the regular season on an eight-game losing streak, and Saturday’s loss marked their 29th straight defeat to the Cardinal. Since 1999, Cal has beaten Stanford only twice in 34 attempts.

“Both teams ran a pretty good pressure man. We’ve been on a consistent streak deploying zones. It was a little bit of an adjustment there, being more focused on the one versus one option,” Zaccaro said. “More of our adjustments were figuring out when you move to a man. It just automatically turns to more of individual play because of the way that it has worked. We played the best when our unit played together.”

Still, the cross-Bay rivalry saw two Cal seniors enter the record books. Defender Ella Annest broke the school record for games played as she stepped on the field for the 74th time in her career. Saturday’s contest broke a four-way tie she held with former Bears Laura Cavallo, Hilary Lynch and Leanna Zilioli. Fellow defender LizaBanks Campagna, who scored her first career goal earlier this month against USC, posted two draw controls to tie both Megan Takacs’ career record of 174 and Elizabeth Koehler’s single-season record of 76.

Cal will next take the field on May 5 to begin the Pac-12 tournament against Colorado. There, the Bears will look to avenge their last tournament loss, a 5-16 defeat against USC in the 2019 conference semifinals. But behind that open door, perhaps Cal will find something to salvage what is left of its season.

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