When it rains, it pours.
And yet, Sunday, Oct. 24, the Cal women’s soccer team’s senior day celebration was only partially spoiled — not by its opponents, but by the weather. Heavy showers and 29-mile-per-hour winds had a mind of their own, as a game originally scheduled for 12 p.m. at Edwards Stadium forced kickoff half an hour later at Witter Rugby Field.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” said senior defender Abena Aidoo. “Everything (on the field) was different. Your touch was different; your pass was different. Judging how the long ball’s coming, you think you know where it’s going to go, and then it’ll just drop or take a turn.”
Nevertheless, the Bears’ resolve gave them every reason to celebrate. At Edwards Stadium, they drowned Arizona in a 1-0 overtime thriller Thursday, Oct. 21. Cal remained steadfast in continuing its downpour Sunday and extinguished Arizona State 1-0 in its final home game of the season.
Amid the rough conditions in Berkeley, Cal was locked in from the outset. In their Thursday game, the Bears outshot the Wildcats 14-8 and created eight opportunities from corner kicks. Experimenting with a new set of starters up front — a theme that’s been prevalent throughout the season — Cal aimed to confuse Arizona’s defense, which looked particularly out of its comfort zone as a light drizzle blanketed the turf.
Most notably, redshirt senior midfielder Emma Westin saw action starting in the 29th minute. Tied alongside junior midfielder Keely Roy as the team’s top goal scorer in spring 2021, Westin was expected to continue her stride in rallying Cal past Pac-12 opponents for fall. Instead, she missed a majority of the season for unexplained reasons.
“We certainly hope to have access to all of our players in the running,” said head coach Neil McGuire when asked when fans could expect to see Westin next on the pitch. “We’re still unsure as to whether Emma will come back.”
Alas, despite such ambiguity by McGuire, Westin played in her final two games in Berkeley. Perhaps emboldened by her return, the players around her seemed to have extra fuel left in the tank as the game saw extra time. That fuel then translated into a crucial golden goal.
Five minutes after the start of the overtime period, freshman forward Alexis Wright danced her way down Arizona’s end line with fancy footwork. As Wright drew two defenders towards her, she found an open Bear — forward Karlie Lema — in front of the goal. First-year Lema then nailed a straightaway shot feet away from Wildcat goalkeeper Hope Hisey to end the game 1-0 — her fourth game-winning goal this season.
On Sunday afternoon, Cal’s matchup against Arizona State was all but the same. With 10 seniors being honored for their last game in Berkeley — including the likes of Aidoo, Westin, defenders Sydney Collins and Emily Smith, as well as midfielder Paige Metayer — Cal’s underclassmen showed up big once again to give their fellow teammates a proper send-off at Witter Rugby Field. Though Cal’s typical home turf of Edwards Stadium was flooded, and kickoff was delayed, Aidoo managed to find a silver lining amidst all of the chaos.
“(With the conditions,) if anything, it showed our resilience. We knew that nothing was going to be perfect and we thought … ‘always follow shots’ … ‘cover Angelina (Anderson),’” Aidoo said. “This whole season we’ve just been building and building. Every game we keep getting better.”
Like their state counterparts, the Sun Devils could never quite come to grips with playing on a wet field. The Bears, on the other hand, were unfazed. As evident by their seven shots on goal, it was only a matter of time before Cal struck gold.
The question of who was going to sink Arizona State first was answered in the 42nd minute. Off of an assist by sophomore forward Anysa Gray, freshman defender Ayo Oke connected with the mesh in her first-ever collegiate goal. Thereafter, Cal’s back line closed in defensive gaps and won tackles. By the end of the match, junior goalkeeper Angelina Anderson recorded four total saves.
With both of these victories against the Grand Canyon State’s best, Cal now holds an overall record of 8-4-3. However, given that the Bears only boast a 4-3-1 conference record, they’ll need to continue to prove that they’re worthy of a spot in the postseason.
As a mid-tier team in the Pac-12, with three competitive foes left on the docket, Cal is gearing up for the potential of more rainy days. But at the very least, given its recent three-game winning streak, it can justifiably celebrate a bit longer and remain optimistic for sunny days ahead.