Senior night under the lights — the bleachers completely full of roaring fans, overflowing with people standing along the edges of the walkways. With the game tied at 1-1 and just under 11 minutes to go, did Cal prevail or crumble under the pressure?
Friday was host to an intense matchup between the Bears and the Aggies in an important game. Going in, Cal was looking to achieve its first winning record against America East Conference teams this season — it sat at 1-1 before this contest — while UC Davis aimed to get its first win in conference play.
This game did not wait to provide the excitement, leading to an early Cal lead after a goal by Kiki de Bruijne. UC Davis responded right back with a goal of its own, courtesy of Brooke Sanchez, tying up the game two minutes later. She got her team on the board and matched the Bears’ energy out of the gate, remaining at 1-1 by the end of the period.
Cal was presented with many opportunities in the second period, earning a penalty corner just a minute in. The first shot attempt was deflected wide, and the second one resulted in a block by a UC Davis defender that turned the ball over to the Aggies’ offense.
Trying to make a statement, Cal’s Olivia Sharratt snagged the ball and charged downfield, driving past UC Davis’s defenders for a shot attempt on the run that landed off target. This play created another exciting buildup for the crowd to cheer about but did not result in a goal for either side.
In the third period, the Aggies upped their passing game in the backfield, showing control and testing the Bears’ defensive positioning. UC Davis also occupied Cal’s side of the field more often in this period, setting up two shots taken with no success. In one last attempt for the Aggies to score the go-ahead goal, the Bears knocked the ball away and spoiled the scoring chance to lead into the final period still tied at one goal a piece.
With 49:19 on the clock, Cal was awarded a penalty corner, producing another scoring chance for the Bears. This time, Luzi Persiehl took matters into her own hands and smacked a goal past Aggies’ goalie Kalli Wagnon. The stands rumbled and the crowd roared, resonating throughout the entire stadium and out onto College Avenue.
UC Davis did not go down quietly, however, charging downfield with a vengeance to tie the game back up. After a long, suspenseful wait with a play under review, the Aggies earned a penalty corner and executed a shot on goal. A save by senior Cato Knipping ignited cheers from the fans once more, getting a game-saving block to keep the Bears in front on senior night.
With the clock ticking down and the remaining chances slimming for UC Davis, the Aggies’ coach decided to pull their goalie, opting to have one more player on offense with the risk of leaving an open net. On a whim, the Aggies put together one last scoring attempt, taking their final shot with 20 seconds left in the game. The Bears’ defense held on and made the stop, securing them a well-earned 2-1 victory.
Fans leaving the stadium could be heard describing the exhilarating game, one attributing the excitement to a “back-and-forth game, but the Bears came out on top!”
Cal improves to 3-6 on the season, collecting its second win in a row and simultaneously beginning the Bears’ first win streak of the season. As the season reaches the final stretch, five more conference matchups remain as Cal looks to continue climbing the standings in search of back-to-back playoff appearances in the America East Conference championship.