After a roller coaster ride that has featured all sorts of vicissitudes, Cal field hockey’s season has finally come to a halt. The Bears finish the season with a record of 5-12, 2-4 in conference.
This was supposed to be the year that the Bears got over the hump and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. After some highs and many lows, though, Cal ended the season in a mirror of last year: a loss in the first round of the conference tournament.
The initial hope and excitement for the season were appropriate; the team returned its top five goal-scorers and both goalies from the 2017 campaign. The Bears also added highly touted freshman backfielder Brynn Zorilla, and head coach Shellie Onstead believed that this solid core could make a run deep into the postseason.
In the early going, all signs suggested that the Bears were well-positioned to be a legitimate contender in the conference. Cal kicked off its season with a convincing 5-1 victory over Providence, with sophomore sensation Megan Rodgers earning a hat trick that solidified her spot as one of the most dangerous scorers in the nation.
And even after a blowout defeat to No. 2 Maryland, Cal fought its way to a quality 1-0 victory over a Miami (Ohio) team that is now in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears looked like they had what it took to be successful: Zorilla transitioned to the college game seamlessly to bolster a stingy Cal defense, and Rodgers continued to score at an elite rate.
Then the Bears began their series of three road trips in five weeks against six top-15 teams, which marked the beginning of the end. Onstead originally scheduled these matchups in an attempt to sharpen her team in preparation for top competition in the postseason, but as the losses accumulated, Cal seemed to almost grow accustomed to defeat.
The last bright spot for the Bears was a brief top-25 appearance after an overtime loss to then-No. 11 Louisville and a 3-1 win against Yale. Then, Cal went on a six-game losing streak, characterized by repeated heartbreak and disappointment.
A few glimmers of hope still remained in the season. Against then-No. 8 Boston College, the Bears generated a 3-0 lead, only to fall 4-3 in overtime. In two matchups with a top-25 Stanford squad, the Bears fell 3-2 both times after mounting furious late-game comebacks.
And in the final game of the year, a 4-3 overtime loss to Maine, Cal led 3-2 with less than five minutes remaining. The rest of the game, though, was just a tragic history that keeps repeating itself.
The Bears can only look forward now, and next year seems just as promising as this season once was. Cal loses senior captains Melina Moore and Janaye Sakkas to graduation, but everyone else is set to return.
Rodgers and Zorilla will headline next season’s squad, and future senior leaders Femke Delissen, Gabi Jimenez and Lindsay Mathison will provide an element of experience that should benefit the Bears.
With many familiar faces getting back on board, Cal can only hope that next season’s ride attains new heights that this year’s couldn’t reach.