Promises. Victories. Hope that turns into wins. After a series of frustrating games, the silent agreement the Cal men’s soccer team made to its fans finally comes to fruition.
The Bears dug in their heels eagerly this weekend, preparing to rectify a show of unsatisfying ties and losses. And rectify, they did. The Bears hit gold against Dixie State on Friday, Sept. 3 after leaving victorious in a 2-0 shutout, followed by a stunning 4-3 victory against UNLV on Sunday, Sept. 5.
On Friday, the blue and gold were ready to overtake the Trailblazers in a seemingly easy win. Tension could be felt toward the top of the nosebleed seats as Cal absorbed the nervous and frantic energy of Dixie State. A normally defensive-minded, calm team, the Bears could be seen playing metaphorical pinball, playing keep-away rather than finding opportunities to score. Head coach Kevin Grimes could even be heard panting on the sidelines during the first half, “Be patient!”
As the Bears headed into halftime, the energy seemed to shift –– the Cal that the fans know and love finally made its appearance.
“(During halftime), we talked about some things we needed to fix and work on and staying more patient and basic tactical adjustments that really helped us all come out more with our personality and become more confident as individuals. Overall that helped us collectively as a team,” said captain and redshirt senior midfielder Lucas Churchill.
As the game progressed into the second half, the Bears seemed to be hit with a second wind. Cal managed itself a lead as junior Jack Singer hit a stellar rebound shot in the 52nd minute. The ever-talented Singer, who plays all over the field, is, quite literally, a “Jack”-of-all-trades. However, for this match, Singer left his defensive and midfielder positions to play up top –– a decision that proved advantageous for Cal.
“It feels good, honestly. This was the first game up top for me. We talked at halftime about being lethal in the box, so as someone sent a cross in, I got on it and followed it in,” Singer said.
After a much-needed boost by Singer, sophomore midfielder Evan Davila added to the team’s morale in the 64th minute by connecting on his first collegiate goal, assisted by fifth-year senior defender Christopher Grey.
“In the moment, the goal felt great. We were already up 1-0, so getting that second goal felt amazing at our home-opener for our first nonconference game. When I saw the ball, with the run-down the line and the cross, I knew. I knew I could sprint to the goal and get there. It was an easy goal. It was just pure emotions,” Davila said.
The blue and gold continued their winning streak as they showed up and out against UNLV on Sunday. A stunning 4-3 goal-shooting affair, the game was a rewarding experience for Cal.
“It was one of those games where you had to keep pressing and keep believing that you could turn the tide your way,” Grimes said. “UNLV is obviously an outstanding team, so we had to bring everything we had and more today to get the victory. It was an amazing finish for us for certain and great for our team mentality moving forward.”
In the very first minutes of the game, both teams added a total of three goals, with the fourth goal not being too far away in the 11th minute.
Singer scored first, performing up top. Not even a minute later, the opposing Rebels’ forward Marco Gonzalez tied the game, 1-1. Davila then added to the scoreboard during the first half.
In the 82nd minute, Singer took another shot and scored –– his third goal in the past two games. Shoei Honda followed up with the game winner in the 84th minute. The freshman forward, a recent recruit from Japan, scored his first collegiate goal. During practices, Honda could be seen running across the field as if preparing exactly for this moment. After receiving a long ball from junior midfielder Juan Martinez, Honda found an opening as the ball settled into the back of the net.
“I feel very good and I’m very grateful to score for everyone who has supported me,” Honda said. “Everyone’s been helping me a lot, so I want to contribute what I can this season.”
The Bears continue onto what may be another notch in their winning streak against Pacific on Sept. 9 at the San Jose Earthquakes Stadium at 7 p.m.
Maria Khan covers men’s soccer. Contact her at email@example.com.