Cal field hockey fans could be seen vigorously cheering from the bleachers and the sidelines, paying no attention to October’s numbing cold, as the Bears huddled together with their sticks held high in celebration of their big 2-0 victory over Stanford. Following this win Friday, Oct. 22, the Bears gained an overall conference standing of 9-4.
“I consider this to be one of the toughest games of the season,” said head coach Shellie Onstead.
There is no doubt that Cal and Stanford have some of the strongest field hockey teams in the NCAA. Amongst all conferences, the Bears are ranked 23rd while Stanford stands at No. 38.
The talent on both sides is truly remarkable, and the two field hockey teams are no exception to the rivalry that exists between the universities. The Bears and Cardinal have maintained an unwavering sense of competition throughout the history of their games against one another.
Cal kept up a winning streak against Stanford starting in 2001 all the way up until the 2008 season. Following that year, successes alternated between the teams until this year’s season.
The blue and gold have, undoubtedly, come back this season with a bang. Their energy on the field is inspiring, with a strong defense that has held down its end of the field and an offense that has kept the ball within their competitors’ sides.
It didn’t take very long for the Bears to shoot their first goal in their game against Stanford this past Friday: It was a penalty stroke made in the first quarter at the impressive three-minute mark by a senior midfielder from Vista, California, Brynn Zorilla.
Fans of the Bears could tell it was looking solid for the team when promising sophomore Kiki de Bruijne scored an unassisted goal. This solid hit made by de Bruijne, driven from the side and landing in the far corner of the goal, happened in the third quarter, with 44 minutes and five seconds of the game down.
When reflecting on this moment of the third quarter, with the last-minute push and triumphant shot, Onstead was thrilled.
“That’s happened to us before. I am happy to see we were mature enough to do that,” Onstead said.
Given this was the last home game, and considering all the sacrifices made by players at the height of the pandemic, such as not seeing their own families and only gathering with their teammates, emotions were high.
“Another way that COVID impacted us is that we ended up with three graduate students, which wouldn’t have happened without COVID and the extension of eligibility,” Onstead said. “There are two that came from four years at another program and just blended right in.”
One of the seniors who had their eligibility extended was graduate student Maddie Cleat.
“Work hard, but also have fun, because the four years go by so quickly. I am so lucky I was able to stay for this extra season,” Cleat said.
Although this is the last of the Bears’ home games and a bittersweet closing of a chapter for their seniors, their journey is not yet over.
There are two games left in this season, and they are conference games, which means the stakes are even higher.
“We have enough wins now to get in the American East Championships, so now the games determine seating and if we are in the top two,” Onstead said. “We only have to play two games in that tournament as opposed to three. It can put us in the NCAA (Division I Field Hockey Championship), so that is super exciting.”
The future is bright for Cal field hockey — and fans should stick around to watch the team take a shot at championships.