There is a stigma in college lacrosse that the West Coast cannot compete with the East Coast in terms of skill and talent. Lacrosse is more popular in the East, giving those colleges the cream of the crop when it comes to recruiting. But based on the emergence of Stanford, USC and even Arizona State, with the first two being ranked top 25 nationally, that stigma is becoming less and less true. Cal lacrosse got a taste of elite teams this past weekend.
On Friday, the Bears went south to face the Trojans in their second meeting of the season. USC won 19-9 in the first matchup and looked to do the same on its home field. The Trojans opened up an early lead but were unable to shake the Bears. For every Trojan goal, the blue and gold were able to respond, keeping the game tight at 6-3 by the end of the first.
USC found breathing room through a variety of players not named Kelsey Huff, arguably the best player in the conference. Goals from Shelby Tilton, Michaela McMahon and Isabelle Vitale extended the Trojan lead to 9-4 and they never looked back. USC won the game decisively 20-11, despite the quiet one-goal game from Huff.
The USC loss was still a milestone game for one Bear. Nikki Zaccaro, who recently earned the all-time assist record for Cal lacrosse, tied the record for most games played with her 75th game. Zaccaro tied Anna Ellest for most in school history, and earned the record in the following game, with the fifth-year senior playing her 76th game versus Arizona State on Sunday.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they did not fare much better against the Sun Devils. A monster first quarter from Arizona State crushed the Bears from the get-go, with six goals to Cal’s one. Emily Glagolev led the charge with a hat trick by the end of the first half en route to a four-goal game. By halftime, the Sun Devils held an insurmountable 12-4 lead that doomed the Bears for the rest of the game.
This weekend showed Cal lacrosse that the Pac-12 is no cake walk, even if they already knew that. With two more games left in the regular season, the Bears face UC Davis once more and their rivals again in Stanford for the season finale at home.
The Aggies gave the Bears a beating in their first match at FTX Field. Ella Brislin, Kendall Seifert and Alex Agnew bruised the Bears in the first meeting, combining forces for nine of the team’s 16 goals. Conversely, the Bears scored a measly five goals across five different players with no player scoring more than one goal.
However, it’s important to note that the Bears that will travel up to Davis this week are unrecognizable from the Bears that played the Aggies 2 ½ months ago. Cal has found balanced scoring from Liz Scott and Amanda Morse. Zaccaro looks as nifty and crafty as ever, continuing to pile on the assists on top of her new record. Perhaps more importantly, the emergence of Maya Lawliss as an offensive threat will be more noticeable in the rematch.
“She’s a dynamic player. She plays midfield. She’s not only scoring goals on offense, she’s playing defense, she’s running the entire field, she’s involved in transition and she’s on the draw team,” said Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks. “(Maya’s) someone who has to perform in all phases of the game, so to be able to have a huge offensive impact as well as doing all the other things as well shows how talented she is.”
Fans will hope the Bears can avenge their earlier tough 16-5 loss when they have their rematch with the Aggies up in Davis this week as the regular season comes to a close. A short break from conference play is perhaps a much-needed one in the ever-evolving Pac-12.