Cal fell 1-0 against the UC Irvine Anteaters Aug. 18, initiating the season with a loss. Although Cal outshot the Anteaters 7-4 and ruled possession during the majority of the game, the Anteaters turned the game around when Alyssa Moore scored. Moore shot into the lower corner, to the keeper’s right, in the 57th minute of the game.
Before the Anteaters took the lead in the game, the Bears took several shots that almost resulted in goals. Defender Courtney Boone and senior Mia Fontana both fired stellar shots that had game-changing potential, but were not successful.
Fast-forward to Aug. 20, the Bears returned back to their home field to face off in an exhibition game against FIFA’s 16th-ranked team in the world, China. As the ball started rolling, both teams began slowly, as not a single shot was taken until the 18th minute. Chinese player Liu Yanqiu scored the first goal of the game, allowing China to take the lead.
Throughout the entire game, it was interesting to see how a World Cup team such as China set up its players, placing its wings wide out to cover the edges of the field. China’s strategy was for the most part offensive, constantly applying pressure on the Bears and allowing them minimal time to make a decision when passing the ball or deciding to score.
Cal, on the other hand, mostly counterattacked and played defensive during the game. Karlie Lema spoke about how fast paced the game was — the biggest difference she observed while playing against the Chinese National Team.
Lema, Cal’s leading goal scorer last season, reacted immediately and scored an out-of-the-box shot two minutes after China scored. This goal is the first of the season, but for Lema it potentially marked the first goal of many to come this fall.
Throughout the game, Cal made numerous substitutions, allowing 25 Bears the opportunity to play against a professional team. This resulted in nearly all the players getting a shot to play early in the season, gaining invaluable experience.
As the opposing team applied pressure and fought hard to take the lead, Zhang Rui put China in the lead in the 39th minute, when her shot was fired in.
Throughout the game, the odds of the Bears scoring an equalizer seemed to diminish until Fontana pulled off an impressive solo run as she fought to pass the ball to Keeley Roy after being cornered by three Chinese players. By luring three of the opposing players to Fontana, Roy was left wide open to take the final shot that left the blue and gold tied 2-2 with the Chinese National Team.
The atmosphere during the game was unmatched, as many fans showed up to support both teams. Throughout the entire game, chants for both sides were heard and fans roared in excitement as “ankle-breaking” shots were fired.
“Shoutout to all the people who came. It’s so crazy to have so many fans,” Roy said shortly after the game finished. “All the excitement helps so much, it was really awesome.”
As Lema and Roy reflected on their performance post game, they both agreed that playing against a world cup team so early in the season will help the team move forward and improve substantially, as it now has great footage to look back at and learn from.
With the season officially beginning, the Bears are eager to see how they will perform in the rest of their games. Cal will face off against Saint Mary’s Thursday and will be playing at home against UC San Diego Sunday at the Edwards Stadium.