Bears Slip In Semis Against Maine, Lose 2-1
ORONO, ME - Cato Knipping had a career day in goal for the No. 4 seed California field hockey team on Friday. The Golden Bears' goalie was tested early and often throughout the semifinal game in the America East Conference Tournament against host, No. 1 seed and No. 25-ranked Maine. Knipping posted a career-high 16 saves, but the Golden Bears fell to the Black Bears, 2-1, from the UMaine FH Complex.
The Golden Bears end their campaign with an overall record of 10-7, the most wins in a season since the 2011 Bears totaled 16. Cal is now 3-6 all-time in the America East Tournament since joining the league in 2015.
"They had us under pressure for a lot of the game, but I thought we were holding strong," said the Donna Fong Director of Field Hockey Shellie Onstead. "We had some good attack at times, but we had a hard time sustaining it. Their strength is their attack, and I thought our defense was amazing. Our attack needed to do a couple things better to exploit their defense, but it just wasn't our day."
Knipping set her personal best in the first half with 14 saves, and one of the saves came on a penalty stroke. The Black Bears earned nine corners in the first half, and Knipping protected the cage through each of them. Her 16 saves top her previous career best of 12, which she set against Stanford during the spring season.
"She was unbelievable," Onstead said about Knipping. "She had a bad game the first time we played Maine. It reset her to get back on track. Her training changed, and her attitude to commit to that was great. This was the culmination of unbelievable play. She kept making the right decision at the right time. Maine is known for their corners. She did a lot of homework, scouting them. She kept stopping them. We needed that to keep us in the game."
Megan Connors tallied the first goal of the game in the first quarter off of a penalty corner when she tipped in a rebound off the shot by Jane Onners. It was Connor's fourth goal of the season, and she ends the season leading the Bears in points on the year with 12. Onners earned an assist on the score.
"Early in the year, she was overplaying a bit," Onstead said about Connors. "We helped her understand that if she slows down, and not going so strong all the time, that a lot can happen. She's been so consistent the last few weeks, and a really good leader off the field. It was nice to see her get that pay off. She just really earned every bit of it."
Maine finally snuck one past Knipping halfway through the third to even the game at one before scoring the eventual game winner early in the fourth quarter. The Black Bears collected a rebound after a penalty corner and slipped a shot in the cage.
Onners recorded her third defensive save of the season. Sara Stone tallied two shots on goal.
"You can't say enough about the commitment of these players, and their ability to stay on track all season," Onstead said. "We made it through another season without any Covid setbacks. Their buy-in was tremendous, and that's something that keeps coaches happy and motivated. Everybody did everything they could in their role, and that's really gratifying across the board."