Cal Tops No. 25 Stanford, 1-0
STANFORD - Maddie Cleat scored the lone goal in the third quarter, pushing the California field hockey team past No. 25 Stanford, 1-0, Friday night in the 2021 fall season opener at Stanford.
The win marks the Golden Bears' first victory over a ranked team since defeating No. 14 Stanford, 4-2, on The Farm in 2017.
As delighted as the Bears were to start the season with a record of 1-0, they met with their opponents on the field afterwards to let them know that they're still on the same team in support of west coast field hockey.
"We circled up with Stanford after the match because the last time we were here, we met with them and basically had to mark the event that they were done, and we were trying to support them in that moment," said the Donna Fong Director of Field Hockey Shellie Onstead. "We got together and told them, 'Good job, you're back. You're battling with 13 players and no goalie, and we're with you, just like we were in March.' West coast hockey has to stick together."
Stanford played the entire match without a goalie, and thus decided to go with a player advantage throughout the contest. Cal was aware beforehand of the strategy by Stanford, but it still presented new challenges compared to a regular game.
"It was tough," Onstead said. "It was an adjustment because we were essentially playing a player-down the entire time. You're kind of shifting the risk back and forth. They played a great tactical game. They played it slow and just tried to take us off of our game. They did a nice job with it."
Megan Connors picked up an assist on Cleat's third-quarter goal. Cleat finished the spring campaign tied with Brynn Zorilla for the team lead in points and goals, and tallied Cal's first goal of the fall season tonight. Kaiden Stanley also recorded a shot.
"We had a hard time getting it into the circle," Onstead said. "We didn't do very well with the circle penetrations we had, and then we finally loosened up a little, started passing the ball better and got a quality chance in the circle. Maddie made a good reception and pushed it in. There's almost more pressure when you're receiving a ball and you know you have an open goal and you mess up the reception. We actually did that a few times until Maddie finally got it done."
Cato Knipping was only forced to make two saves on the stat sheet, earning her first shutout of the season and the fourth of her career. Onstead noted that while Knipping may not have been busy stopping shots, she guided the Bears throughout the match, organizing the backfield as the "quarterback" and was tabbed the team's player of the game.
The Bears begin the home slate on Sunday, Aug. 29, at noon against No. 10 Liberty from Underhill Field.