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Late Goal Lifts Bears Into Conference Semifinals

Nov 3, 2021
Cal Advanced To Friday's Semifinals

ORONO, ME - The No. 4 seed California field hockey team had a golden opportunity to advance in the America East Conference Tournament on Thursday when senior and team captain Brynn Zorilla stepped in front of the cage for her third penalty stroke of the season. Already 1-for-2 on the year in that category, Zorilla slammed her shot home, scoring the eventual game-winning goal in the Golden Bears' 2-1 victory over No. 5 seed New Hampshire from the UMaine FH Complex in Orono, ME. 

Cal improved to 10-6 on the year, picking up double-digit wins for the first time since the 2011 Bears won 16. 

"I thought we had things going pretty well, but I didn't know if we'd get away with just one goal," said the Donna Fong Director of Field Hockey Shellie Onstead. "The team mentality is really shining through right now. Being able to stay in the moment, the present, that's really paid off. It's going to keep us going."

Megan Connors got the Bears on the board in the first quarter. Connors drove to the cage and beat the keeper with a backhander for the first tally of the contest. It was her third goal of the season, and she is now tied with Anne Van Hoof for the team lead in points with 10. 

Following a scoreless second quarter, the Wildcats evened the match at one halfway through the third quarter. 

Late in the fourth quarter, Connors was driving to the goal and was tripped up by two Wildcats. The Bears earned a penalty stroke, as a result, and Zorilla beat the Wildcat goalie to her left to score the eventual game winner. 

"You have to make the call of who's going to take it, and that's a tricky decision because Megan and Brynn have been working on it all year," Onstead said. "It's always a high-pressure situation so you like to have multiple players prepared for it. Brynn responded well after missing the other penalty stroke, and I didn't think that would happen again. You put it in the hands of your senior player and your captain, and she did great."

Both goalies were tested early and often. Cato Knipping and UNH's Jemma Woods both made difficult saves to keep their teams in the game. Knipping finished with six saves, while Woods totaled 10. Woods stopped Rachel Buttinger on a breakaway in the fourth quarter, shortly before Cal earned the penalty stroke. Buttinger finished the game with four shots, all on goal. 

"They were a little bit of a different team than when we played them earlier in the year," Onstead said. "I expected it would be a battle. Cato had a good game."

The Bears outshot the Wildcats, 17-13, and Cal fended off six corners for UNH to only three for the Bears. 

Cal plays No. 1 seed and host No. 25 Maine on Friday, Nov. 5, at 9 a.m. PT. The championship game is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m. PT.