Cal’s Season Ends with 2-1 Loss to Santa Clara in NCAA First Round
NEWS & NOTES:
- Emily Kruger is now the program’s all-time leader for career saves with 279. Previous to today’s game, she was tied for second with Karen Cook with 273 saves. She eclipsed former record holder Maite Zabala, who had 277 career saves.
- Cal finishes the season at 11-5-5 overall and 4-4-3 in the Pac-12, finishing fifth in the league after the Bears were originally predicted to finish third.
- This was Cal’s 10th consecutive postseason berth, and the fourth time in the last 10 seasons the Bears failed to advance to the second round of the tournament.
- The Bears were 0-3 this season when an opponent scored in the first half.
- The Cal seniors finish with a four-year record of 48-23-14 and advanced to the postseason each year during their careers.
SANTA CLARA, Calif.– Cal’s (11-5-5, 4-4-3 Pac-12) tenth consecutive postseason run ended with a 2-1 loss to Santa Clara (15-4-1, 8-1-0 WCC) Saturday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara.
The Broncos advance to play Boston University in the second round in Blacksburg, Va., where the regional No. 1 seed Virginia Tech will host the second and third rounds.
Santa Clara claimed the lead early with just the third goal that Cal has allowed in the first half all season. The Bears tied it up at the beginning of the second half before a late goal by the Broncos left Cal fighting the rest of the way.
Senior goalkeeper Emily Kruger (Woodside, Calif.) recorded six saves in the loss, securing her spot as the program’s all-time career saves leader with 279. Previous to the Santa Clara contest, she was tied with Karen Cook for second place with 273. She eclipsed previous record holder Maite Zabala’s 277 saves total.
Kruger’s Santa Clara counterpart, Andi Tostanoski, also had six saves.
Seniors Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick (Pleasanton, Calif) and Rachel Mercik (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) and sophomore Ifeoma Onumonu (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) led the team with three shots apiece, and the trio each had two shots on frame. The team was 7-for-14 in shooting, while the Broncos were 8-for-14 in the evenly matched game between the familiar foes.
The Broncos scored their first goal off a free kick. Santa Clara’s Julie Johnston took the initial touch, tapping the ball a few feet to teammate Alyson Birgel, whose kick broke through the Cal wall. Kruger dove to stop it, but the ball rolled slowly past her and into the back of the net.
Cal equalized the score four minutes into the second half with senior captain Emi Lawson’s (Seattle) second header goal of the season. Lawson received the ball in the air off a corner from fellow captain Mercik (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) and placed it opposite Bronco goalie Andi Tostanoski into the left side of the net.
The Broncos gave the Bears a scare at the 58th minute, issuing several shots at the goal. The first shot came from the left side of the field far beyond box. Kruger made a diving save to stop it as Santa Clara went for the rebound. Several Broncos got a foot on the ball, creating a jumble just feet away from the woodwork before the ball finally bounced out of bounds.
A steal by Santa Clara’s Brittany Ambrose doomed the Bears when Santa Clara was able to break away from the Bear defense. Ambrose passed to Sofia Huerta, who net the gamewinner at 69:09.
Cal had another opportunity at the Bronco goal near the 72nd minute. Tostanoski came out of the box to try to stop a charging California offense, but the Bears rebounded. Samantha Witteman (Redondo Beach, Calif.) swiftly volleyed the ball toward the frame, but a Bronco defender stepped in in Tostanoski’s absence and kicked the ball out of the danger zone.
It was the fourth time in the last 10 seasons the Bears failed to advance to the second round of the tournament. The loss follows a season in which Cal opened the year with a 13-game unbeaten streak before finally losing to then-No. 2 and eventual Pac-12 Champion UCLA. It was the program’s best start in 20 years and just the fourth time in program history that the team went unbeaten through 13 or more games.
Saturday’s result ends the California careers for Lawson, Mercik, Kruger, Fitzpatrick, Ariana Martinez, Nina Pederson, Genesee Daughtee, Kat Messinger, Kelsie Dickerson, Mekenna DeBack and Rachelle Comeau. The group finishes with a four-year record of 48-23-14 and advanced to the postseason each year during their careers.
21:45 Santa Clara -- BIRGEL, Aly (JOHNSTON, Julie)
47:24 Cal -- Lawson, Emi (Mercik, Rachel)
69:09 Santa Clara -- HUERTA, Sofia (AMBROSE, Brittany)
California 6 (Kruger, Emily 6), Santa Clara 6 (TOSTANOSKI, Andi 6)