Road trips are tough, but they are tougher when the only victories you can glean from them are moral ones.
On the last weekend of March, the Bears traveled to Oregon and Colorado, facing off against two Pac-12 rivals in hopes of earning their first victory of the season. Unfortunately for Cal lacrosse, it came home with two very close losses, continuing its winless streak.
On Friday, March 25, the Bears opened the weekend in Oregon, facing a Ducks team struggling almost as much. Oregon came into the game with a win versus Marquette but also with a six-game losing streak previously. If there was a team the Bears were capable of defeating, it would surely be the 2-6 Ducks.
Cal opened the game with fire, building a 5-4 lead thanks to the efforts of its star attacker, Liz Scott, who found the net three times in the first half. However, the Bears were unable to maintain any consistency to close the second quarter, a theme of this season.
Gabby Cleveland of the Ducks led a 4-1 run to close the half up 8-6, rocketing two goals in the process. Oregon extended its lead at the start of the third, building a 4-point lead thanks to scores by Morgan McCarthy and Hanna Hilcoff. This middle stretch of the game essentially won the Ducks the match as the Bears never got closer from this point forward.
The Ducks were also able to stonewall Cal in a game of gritty defense. While Scott earned four goals in her own right next to Maya Lawliss, who also scored four goals and continues an excellent season thus far, the Oregon defense held the Bears to a measly nine goals. Still, goalie Riley Drullinger saved 10 of Oregon’s shots on goal, with the Bears limiting the Ducks to a relatively low 12 goals.
Still, this loss stems from a variety of factors. For starters, Cal only accumulated 15 shots on goal, to Oregon’s 22. Cal also committed 21 turnovers despite forcing 14 from its opponent. Not to mention the Bears lost in ground balls, 21 to 32 — an important 50/50 battleground where games are often won and lost.
Facing a team as up and down as Oregon, the Bears had an opportunity to win their first game on Friday. They failed to do so due to their inability to maintain control of the ball and find an offensive rhythm. Luckily for the Bears, they face Oregon on a quick turnaround this Friday, giving them another opportunity to win versus an inconsistent opponent.
On Sunday, March 27, the Bears came to Colorado, facing the No. 23-ranked team in the country. The Buffaloes boasted a mighty 7-2 record entering the game, including an undefeated 5-0 record at home.
It was a series of runs that won Colorado the match. The Buffaloes tallied up three quick goals to start the game, eventually building a 5-2 lead by the end of the first quarter. They followed that same trend in the second, ripping off five unanswered goals to start the quarter and amassing an indomitable 10-2 lead. The Buffalo charge was led by Sadie Grozier, who found two of her six total goals in that quarter alone.
The second quarter wasn’t all disastrous, however. Around the 7:59 mark of the quarter, Nikki Zaccaro found Quinnlyn Mason and earned an assist to break the all-time assists record, previously held by Colleen O’Mara at 83 assists from 2001-4. All year long, Zaccaro, now at 85 career assists, has been a bright point in a rather gloomy season, leading the team with her poise and playmaking ability.
The Bears mounted a semi-comeback, fueled by Zaccaro’s record breaking achievement. They managed to cut the game to 13-8 towards the end of the third and 14-10 five minutes through the fourth. It just was not enough to handle the Buffaloes as they put the game out of reach with two timely goals by Sam McGee and Grozier.
The Bears return home this week to complete Pac-12 play in a series of rematches. They face the Oregon Ducks once more Friday, April 1, as well as Colorado on Sunday, April 3. There have been bright spots all season long for the Bears, just not enough to outshine the mounting losses that cast a shadow on the year.