Ghosts, vampires and monsters weren’t the only scary things that came to haunt Berkeley this Halloweekend — Cal men’s soccer also had to face No. 1 Washington to determine its postseason plans. Unfortunately for the Bears, the result they needed on Thursday to secure a future in the playoffs slipped out of their fingers after the Huskies scored a late winner in the last nine seconds of the match. A couple days later, on Sunday, the blue and gold faced Oregon State, where they were able to come back in the latter half of the game to finish the weekend off with a draw.
The pressure of the Washington game didn’t necessarily stem from the complete dominance of Cal’s opponents, but rather the fact that the Bears really needed this win to have any shot at a postseason.
“I wouldn’t say anyone was nervous, but it was that the game was deciding our season. So we all knew, if we didn’t win, our season would be over since we had to win our last few games for any chance at playoffs,” said senior defender Jack Singer. “So, that’s why when we were tied 1-1, we were still pushing really hard.”
The first goal of the game was scored by Washington junior forward Nick Scardina following a Husky corner kick. Despite a strong effort by Cal goalkeeper Colin Travasos, the ball found its way just over the goal line, making the game 1-0, 31 minutes in.
However, just after a couple of minutes, the blue and gold was given a prime opportunity to close this score gap after a foul by Washington sophomore forward Ilijah Paul awarded Cal forward Fahmi Ibrahim a penalty kick in the 34th minute. Husky goalkeeper Jadon Bowton misjudged the direction of Ibrahim’s kick, leaving the net wide open for Cal’s equalizing goal.
This penalty kick marks #7 Ibrahim’s seventh goal of the season, maintaining his status in leading the team in both goals and points.
The second half of the game stayed goalless despite a total of 12 shots by Washington and five by Cal — until the Huskies brought the Bears their unfortunate fate. At 89:51, Cal only needed to withhold nine more seconds to become a rare blemish on Washington’s undefeated overall record of 12-0-2. However, a cross into the middle by Husky midfielder Gabe Threadgold found its way to Paul, who headed the ball into the back of the net.
Finishing the match off 2-1, the Washington game highlighted how beautiful yet cruel soccer is: The course of the game can switch at any second, right up until the whistle is blown.
Although the Bears’ hopes for the postseason faded with the Huskies, Cal still brought a strong determination to its match against the Beavers.
“The result of the Oregon game didn’t matter anymore, but obviously we wanted to do our best and we wanted to win,” Singer said of the game, as it no longer determined the postseason. “So it just lifted a little bit of weight off the shoulders and let us play more freely,” said Singer.
In the 23rd minute of the match, a handball by Ibrahim awarded Oregon State a penalty kick — which OSU midfielder Mouhameth Thiam successfully scored.
The Bears came out guns blazing in the second half, with a goal by junior forward Nonso Adimabua, assisted by sophomore forward Shoei Honda, equalizing the score 1-1 in the 58th minute. The blue and gold created a dominating amount of opportunities in the latter half of the match with 13 shots in the half alone, compared to the Beaver’s two. However, the score remained tied throughout the remaining minutes of the game, concluding at 1-1.
Although the season’s end is looking closer than the Bears had hoped, this rollercoaster of a season was an important stepping stone for Leonard Griffin’s first season as head coach at Cal, in terms of continuing to develop a stronger team
“We’re coming together better at the end of the season — we’re (now) all used to playing together with the new coaches and the new system,” said Singer.