Win, tie, tie? — Stanford may have been deemed the automatic victor of the Pac-12 Championship after UCLA was defeated by USC in the last game of the conference season, but Cal held it at the throat and managed to tie it up with the Pac-12 title winner. The Cal women’s soccer team brought a lingering end to a successful conference season after a contentiously fought battle against its Bay Area rival last Friday.
The Cardinal came off of a nine-game win streak, including a win over the previously Pac-12 No.1 UCLA. Stanford has won eight games on Cal’s own turf in the past, and has been the victor throughout matches against Cal, having won a total of 15 out of 23 games played. The pressure of this match being the closing match to the Pac-12 Championships along with the school rivalry made the war all the more ferocious.
Both teams immediately jump-started the game, but Stanford took initiative and maintained intense control over the ball, with Cal’s defense knocking out balls from the penalty box. One player from Cal particularly stood out, especially during the first half, in finding opportunities and spaces to steal the ball away from the Cardinal’s tight-knit positioning.
The Bears’ Ayo Oke was a force to be reckoned with on the field, even with Stanford’s well-communicated defense pushing back. Oke’s speedy steals gave leeway for Cal standouts such as Karlie Lema and Mia Fontana to take many shots on goal in the first half. However, Stanford continued to be well coordinated; Cardinal goalkeeper Ryan Campbell showed off her skills as the most recent Pac-12 goalkeeper of the week, making multiple saves against Lema and Fontana.
In comparison, the Bears also tried pushing back on Stanford, but the Trees had a well assembled push, starting from the back up the field and rapidly bringing the ball up toward the goal. There was a close call around 40 minutes in when Stanford just barely passed the goal line, but the goalkeeper Angelina Anderson was able to knock it away. The first half remained scoreless, even with Oke’s tenacity, and the fight remained even.
Countering the Cardinal, Cal has only allowed one goal in its last four matches, shining light on Anderson’s ability. With Stanford’s players clustering the penalty box in the 44th minute, Anderson timed a perfect pluck of the ball out of the sky away from Stanford forward Samantha Williams.
As the second half came around, so did the casualties. There was heavy aggression in Edwards Stadium, with players like Oke and Lema colliding with Stanford players in the congestion and heat of the field. In the 60th minute, the Cardinal’s Williams made a pass from the right side to slyly nudge the ball into the goal, setting the score 0-1.
The blue and gold persisted, but the defensive lines of Stanford held strong. Yet, amid the physicality, Cal worked its way in through a corner kick from Courtney Boone, where Karlie Lema was able to slide in under a clump of Cal and Stanford players alike and land the loose ball home. This was Lema’s fifth goal of the season, and also the first goal scored against Stanford in the previous five games.
Both the Cardinals and the Bears held out for the remainder of the game, keeping up the energy and playing to win. But even with a free kick in the last four seconds from Keely Roy, Cal was unable to land a win against the newly found Pac-12 champions.
“It’s not really the result we wanted, but we worked hard and definitely dominated in moments … Next time, we’ll just put away our chances but it’s better than a loss … I’m just going to keep moving off of that momentum, hopefully get some more assists and goals for the team as we go into the tournament,” Oke said after the game.
Cal ends its season with a 10-4-6 overall record and 5-3-3 for conference, placing them at an impressive No. 4 in the Pac-12. The team awaits their NCAA selection on Monday, Nov. 7 that determines their standings in the upcoming NCAA tournament, where the Bears may be able to continue an astounding performance as they did this semester.