With the MPSF conference title up for grabs later this season, Cal battled one of its toughest competitors this past Saturday and fell short in an overtime match. Cal hosted its second conference game against USC. The Trojans, having a great season, with a current record of 16-1 and their only loss being against Stanford, came out fired up and ready to make their mark in Bear territory. USC is ranked No. 2 in the nation and showcased its strength on both ends of the pool, which ultimately led to its victory.
It was a tough game for the Bears, as they began with a rocky start. From the opening whistle, both teams came out with a high level of intensity and energy, and the first quarter was marked by quick, back-and-forth action. USC managed to pull away with an early lead, marking six goals in just the first quarter. Cal responded with a pair of goals to get back in the game. Head coach Coralie Simmons noted how the whole game was an uphill battle for the Bears.
“We battled. This team is the toughest team in the nation by far. It shows in games like this where we can battle back from a really tough start. We didn’t start well — defensively, we were a little off. We were a little out of sync,” Simmons said. “It was encouraging to see them battle back and then some tough calls here and there that created some momentum shifts. But we have to make sure that we can control what we can control in terms of our looks. We got some really nice looks.”
For the next three periods, the Bears began to gain some momentum, with a strong defensive effort limiting USC’s scoring opportunities, marked by Isabel Williams’ major blocks from the goal. Cal’s offense, meanwhile, continued to click, with several players contributing goals and assists to threaten the Trojans’ comfortable lead.
The teams traded scores until USC scored back-to-back goals to establish a 12-10 advantage with under two minutes to play in the game. But Ruby Swadling took over, scoring on a power play with just one minute remaining before notching the game-tying goal to force overtime.
“Ruby (Swadling) played out of her mind, and had some really nice goals,” Simmons said. “There were some moves that should have been penalties, but our centers played well.”
Overtime commenced and Maryn Dempsey gave the Bears their first and only lead of the game in the first overtime period, but the Trojans scored the next two to get back ahead. After Williams tied it with her goal in a 7-on-6 offensive play, the Trojans scored with seven seconds to go to secure the victory. The final score was 14-15, with the Bears falling short in the last seconds of the game.
Overall, it was an impressive showing from both teams, with plenty of skill, athleticism and determination on display. The Trojans’ well-rounded performance was enough to earn them the win, but the Bears showed that they are a force to be reckoned with and should be a tough opponent for anyone in the league. Swadling noted how the team this season is so tightknit and how it might have an edge when it comes to communication.
“Our communication this game was really good. Usually towards the end when we get tired in the third and fourth quarter is when we start to lose our communication, but we were able to maintain that the whole game,” Swadling said. “And especially when the crowd was getting loud towards the end when it was really important. Maintaining our communication was the most important thing and staying cool, calm and composed and not letting things get out of hand.”
Next up, the Bears take a break from MPSF conference games as they host Harvard this Wednesday and then face Indiana on Saturday.