Throughout the course of the season, the Bears have enjoyed occasional outbursts of complete, well-rounded play. As evidence of this, Cal women’s soccer posted four shutouts coming into the weekend, which was good enough to tie with USC for the top-four spot in the conference.
However, based on this past weekend, it now knows what it feels like to face disheartening and consecutive losses in the same state.
The blue and gold suffered perhaps their worst defeats of the season, falling to Washington and Washington State 1-0 and 2-0, respectively. These defeats marked just the third and fourth times that the Bears’ offense failed to put up points in a game (their last time came against Oregon just two games ago). As a result, Cal dropped to No. 8 in the conference standings after sitting in 6th place only one week prior.
Efficiency was the Bears’ undoing during their trip to the Husky Soccer Stadium. Only three of their 14 shots were on target, with two of them coming in the second half. Three different Cal players had shots go over the net, while several offensive players struggled to get going — to which senior defender Sydney Collins attributes to UW’s ability to effectively throw Cal off its game.
“We struggled at times to play, like, really tough, big, strong soccer,” Collins said. “We were forced to play outside of our styles and with that brought some new challenges.”
Making matters even worse was an issue that has plagued the Bears over the course of the year — for the third time this season, they allowed a goal in the opening 15 minutes. Washington’s goal came courtesy of fourth-year forward Summer Yates, who headed in a long kick from the near sideline by redshirt sophomore Helena Reischling.
The Huskies’ bend-but-don’t-break defense was able to hold off Cal’s rally via key stops in the final minutes, emphasizing the blue and gold’s ultimate demise. Washington goalkeeper Olivia Sekany saved a shot by Cal’s freshman defender Courtney Boone and the defense held on after a missed shot by sophomore hybrid defender and midfielder Skylar Briggs.
Although both games featured chippy play from the Bears, the effect of Cal’s fouls on both teams was no more apparent than in its loss to Washington State. Collins’ foul in the 34th minute set up Washington State midfielder Sydney Pulver’s penalty kick, which was rifled into the back right end of the net. In total, Cal committed 14 fouls, giving the team 26 through the two games.
“That’s something we’ve struggled with this year,” Collins said. “Part of that comes from being really aggressive and eager to win the ball back. We do have a really high pressing team that works really hard and so that translates to some fouls we don’t really need to commit.”
Before welcoming the Grand Canyon State to Berkeley for games against Arizona and Arizona State, Cal will conclude its three-game road trip with a visit to Salt Lake City for a battle against Utah. The Utes are coming off of a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of the Trojans, so both offenses are itching to get back in the scoring column. While the Bears failed to exorcise demons against the Huskies and Cougars, they should have an easier time against the Utes, whom they beat 1-0 back in March.
Despite an undefeated start, Cal has fallen back into the middle of the pack in the Pac-12. If it hopes to end a freefall in the standings, a victory in Utah is a necessity.
Ali Fazal covers women’s soccer. Contact him at afazaldailycal.org.