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Bears Suffer Close Loss In Season Opener

Mar 7, 2021
Senior Maddie Cleat assisted on Cal's goal Sunday.

DAVIS – The eagerness of playing for the first time in 485 days may have had an effect on the Cal field hockey team on Sunday.

The Bears had an extra bounce in their collective step – and at times it may have been a little too bouncy. The result was a 2-1 loss to UC Davis in the season-opener for both teams at Aggie Field.

"There were clearly some nerves and jitters but that was expected on both sides of the ball," Donna Fong Director of Field Hockey Shellie Onstead said. "I could tell yesterday at practice the players were amped up – almost too amped up. We were emotional for a lot of reasons."

Not only was Sunday the Bears' first game since Nov. 8, 2019, in the semifinals of the America East Tournament, it was also their first competition since the tragic passing of teammate Zoe Rogers last October. The Bears wore special warm-ups before the game in her honor.

"It was an important moment to get to," Onstead said. "She's very present and very involved in all of our rituals. There was a lot to process."

The game was scoreless at halftime but the Aggies finally broke through on a goal just 23 seconds into the third quarter. Cal answered just over six minutes later when sophomore Rachel Buttinger redirected a shot from senior Maddie Cleat for her first career goal to tie the game at 1-1.

UC Davis took the lead for good on a goal with 15 seconds left in the third quarter.

"We played frantic throughout the whole first half, which can lead to some unnecessary turnovers," Onstead said. "We tied it, which was great, but I give credit to Davis. They lifted their game and we didn't. We played frantic again once they got that second goal."

The Bears host UC Davis in a rematch Friday in their home opener at 6 p.m. from Underhill Field.