Sometimes it takes just one player to bring a team to the promised land. For the Cal women’s soccer team, that tipping point came Thursday, Sept. 2, in the form of a freshman forward: Karlie Lema.
Against USF at Edwards Stadium, the Bay Area local scored the only goal for the blue and gold, bringing the Bears up 1-0 for their third overall victory of the season. With this being Lema’s second goal for Cal, she is currently the team’s lead goal scorer.
“We needed a goal,” Lema said. “It was close to the end of the game and we did not want to go into overtime again.”
Right from kickoff, Cal took hold of the driver’s seat and never looked back. With an opening 3-4-3 formation, the Bears made their priorities clear from the start: control possession in the middle third.
Subsequently, experienced players such as upperclassmen midfielders Keely Roy, Kaylee Nguyen and Paige Metayer, along with freshman forward Marleen Rohde, anchored the Bears’ midfield unit on the pitch. This lineup allowed the team to ultimately keep the ball steadily past its attacking third, which incrementally eased pressure off its back line.
“We dominated the game,” Lema said. “For the most part, that’s what led to the goal. You’re bound to get one. If we don’t have the ball, we can’t score. It’s important to keep possession and try and get the ball up the field as fast as we can.”
During the few times that USF managed to spark an offensive charge, Cal collapsed in on the opposition’s forwards accordingly. Primarily due to the efforts of veteran defenders Emily Smith, Sydney Collins and Abena Aidoo, the Dons had little business sharing time on the field with the Bears. After winning pivotal tackles and 50-50 balls, Cal shut down USF to nine total shots by the end of the match – none of which were on target.
On the other hand, the blue and gold’s offense reigned supreme. In the first half alone, the Bears tallied 10 total shots and forced five corners. Arguably the closest scoring opportunity came from junior forward Natalie Hueston, who forced USF goalkeeper Molly Eby to dive to her right to save a line-drive shot from around 19 yards out. Though only three shots of Cal’s were on goal in 45 minutes, it was only a matter of time before the Bears broke free.
Out of the halftime huddle, Cal kept its game plan consistent: set the tempo by controlling the ball and creating offensive charges. 10 more shots fired off brought up the home team’s total to a whopping 20. Five more corners brought up the Bears’ total to an unprecedented 12.
In the 54th minute, Cal’s offense finally reached its tipping point. Off of a deflected shot by freshman forward Ari Manrique, who veered the ball to the right goalpost and away from Eby, Lema swooped in to seal the deal – a light tap to the back of the net to bring the Bears up 1-0.
“Ari took the shot and I thought the goalkeeper was going to save it,” Lema said. “But I was ready to tap it in. It was crucial that we got a goal.”
In the proceeding 36 minutes, USF’s offense looked dazed and confused. On top of failing to answer with a goal of its own, the Dons were incapable of truly testing junior goalkeeper Angelina Anderson. With this victory and overall record of 3-0-2, Cal moves up to the fifth spot in the Pac-12 standings. On Thursday, Sept. 9, it’ll play Sacramento State at Edwards Stadium in what is expected to be a favorable matchup for the Bears.
Ryan Chien is the deputy sports editor. Contact him at email@example.com.