Cal An 11-9 Winner Over Fresno State
BERKELEY – Freshman goalkeeper Lily Rathbun found out Sunday morning she would be making her first collegiate start and responded by leading Cal to an 11-9 non-conference victory over Fresno State on a sparking afternoon at California Memorial Stadium. The win ended the Golden Bears' five-game losing streak and was their second victory in as many games against the Bulldogs this season after also winning March 5 in Fresno, 14-12.
"This was a big win for us," head coach Brooke Eubanks said. "It was a team effort. All sides of the ball stepped up in different moments of the game."
The nine goals allowed by Rathbun and the Bears were the fewest since an 11-7 win at Winthrop on Feb. 23, 2020. Rathbun played all 60 minutes and finished with six saves.
"It was really nice to realize that all my hard work through high school and now coming to college and to be able to play is like a dream come true," Rathbun said. "It felt awesome, and I had great teammates to support me."
"Lily made some momentum changing saves today and worked well with the defense," Eubanks said.
Marisa Kuberra registered a career-high-tying four goals that also equaled the most by a Cal player this season, while Nikki Zaccaro tied her career best with four assists and added a fifth point on a goal. Quinnlyn Mason (2 goals) and Ashley Ward (1 goal, 1 assist) added two points each, while Sophia Cerino, Olivia Dey and Megan Mix each had unassisted goals.
Zaccaro also led the team with four ground balls and three caused turnovers.
Cal took an early 3-1 advantage after Kuberra scored the team's first two goals at 29:14 (unassisted) and 26:54 (Zaccaro assist) before Mason tallied at 21:56.
"I knew that coming out hot, disciplined and put together was really going to be key today," Kuberra said. "We were definitely going to have to grind out a win, and I thought that it's really going to be the heart and the hustle that's going to put us over the edge, so I thought in the first two minutes why not go for it and try to catch them off guard."
Fresno State would take its only lead of the game at 4-3 by scoring the next three goals from Sydney Skalstad (16:19) and Megan Walaitis twice (13:47, 12:48), with Lauren Kiszely assisting on both Walaitis goals.
But Cal seized control of the game when five different scorers contributed to a 5-0 run that turned a 4-3 deficit with 12:48 remaining in the first half into an 8-4 advantage when Cerino connected for her first goal of the season 59 seconds before halftime on an assist from Ward. Mason started the 5-0 Cal run with an unassisted goal at 11:17 before Zaccaro assisted on goals by both Ward (10:37) and Kuberra (8:35). Mix also scored unassisted during the stretch at 7:05.
Fresno State got one goal back before the break when Logann Eldredge connected on a Walaitis assist to cut the Cal advantage to 8-5 at halftime.
The Bulldogs would also pick up the first goal of the second half from Hennessey Evans on Kiszely's fourth assist of the game at 27:42 to get within 8-6 but could get no closer.
Cal rebuilt its lead to 11-7 with three of the game's next four goals coming unassisted from Zaccaro (24:26) and Dey (19:45) before Zaccaro got her career-high-tying fourth assist on Kuberra's career-high-tying fourth goal at 15:12.
Fresno State cut the Cal lead to two for the third and final time of the second half at 11-9 after back-to-back goals by Skalstad with 3:04 (unassisted) and 2:22 (Walaitis assist) but Marina Smith won the subsequent draw control (her career-high-tying fourth) and Cal was able to rebound the only shot it needed to take to run out the clock.
"Our draw team was a huge part of our success today," said Eubanks in reference to Cal's 16-6 advantage in draw controls. "They had the defense's back after a goal and gave the offense a ton of extra possessions."
Cal dedicated today's game against Fresno State to the HEADstrong Foundation and the memory of Nick Colleluori and those who have lost their battle to cancer, as well as for those who are fighting, beating and affected by cancer. Nick, who played for the Hofstra men's lacrosse team was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and founded the HEADstrong Foundation in 2007. HEADstrong provides financial, residential and emotional support to families and individuals affected by cancer. Although Nick passed away in 2007, his legacy lives on through this amazing foundation. They have helped over 18,000 families by raising over 18.5 million dollars to improve the quality of life of those affected by cancer.
Cal (2-7) concludes a stretch of three straight non-conference contests next Friday and Sunday with games at UC Davis (5 pm PT) and San Diego State (Noon PT).