Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times? That’s a pattern.
Cal women’s soccer lost its third straight game Saturday, as the Bears were chopped down by rival No. 14 Stanford 3-1 in both teams’ final regular season game. Though the team played tough against three straight top-15 opponents, the pattern showed clear after this last game — the Bears may just not be ready to fully compete with the leaders of the Pac-12.
Cal’s season all but came to an end with the loss, as the blue and gold dropped to 4-6-1 in conference play, good for eighth in the conference. While there is still a chance the team could receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, the lack of quality wins and losing conference record has the team looking toward next year.
“It’s not looking promising for us, but our heads are already already getting geared towards getting back after it and having a really good season next season,” said junior goalie Angelina Anderson.
Following a consistent theme throughout the season, the Bears played extremely well against their high-quality opponent, but were just unable to close the door on a win.
The Cardinal got onto a quick 1-0 lead in the first half with a 21st-minute goal by Madison Haley, before doubling their lead with another score in the 57th minute. Sophomore Anysa Gray made things interesting with a goal four minutes later to cut the lead to 2-1, but the Bear comeback would ultimately fall short as Stanford rode one more goal to a 3-1 victory.
Despite facing a stout Cal defense that had been playing some of its best ball of the season, the Cardinal were able to post 21 shots on the day, 10 of which were on goal. Anderson was able to save seven of these attempts — a season high — but the consistent offensive onslaught proved too much for even one of the best defenses in the conference.
“Stanford’s game plan was to high press us and look to go forward quickly … which allows them to, you know, get the ball higher up the field and create goalscoring opportunities,” Anderson said.
While the loss was a culmination of a disappointing season in terms of results, Cal’s young stars showed much promise and hope for future success for the program. Seven of Cal’s eight top point scorers were underclassmen, including Gray, Abby Borchers and leading goal scorer Karlie Lema.
“This season … had a few bumps in the road, but I think (the freshmen) definitely developed and learned a lot,” Anderson said, looking forward to next season. “That was the energy that was in the room … thank you so much to the seniors, they’ve led the way (and) they’re going to leave a legacy. But next season this … core group is going after it again.
The team will be without many of its defensive studs, however, as Cal’s top four defensive players in terms of minutes played — Emily Smith, Paige Metayer, Sydney Collins and Abena Aidoo — just played the final game of their careers in Berkeley.
Despite the losses, the blue and gold still believe they are well set up for a solid run in 2022.
“I feel like towards the end of the season even though we got some bad results, I feel like our performance was trending upwards,” Anderson said, stressing the importance of “Taking that energy, that momentum, into spring training and just using it to get better.”
The NCAA tournament selection show will be aired Monday, as Cal awaits the chance to continue its season.
Noah Parker covers volleyball. Contact him at email@example.com.