NEWS & NOTES:
- Cal’s 13-game unbeaten streak is only the fourth time in program history that the team has gone unbeaten through 13 or more games. Cal’s other unbeaten streaks came in 1986 (14), 1987 (16) and 1993 (13).
- Rachel Mercik’s goal was a new career-high fifth goal of the season.
- Cal has not allowed an opponent to score in the first half.
- The Golden Bears have played opponents to three 1-1 ties in double overtime this season (Pepperdine, Santa Clara and USC) and only one scoreless tie (Utah).
BERKELEY – The No. 8/13 California women's soccer team extended its unbeaten streak to 13 games with a 1-1 draw in double overtime against USC Friday afternoon at Goldman Field. The Bears are now 9-0-4 (2-0-2 Pac-12) and the Women of Troy are 5-6-2 (0-3-1 Pac-12).
Senior captain Rachel Mercik (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) scored Cal’s only goal in the 27th minute as the Women of Troy thwarted a usually explosive Cal offense, limiting the Bear offense to just eight shots through the 110 minutes. Despite USC’s 20-8 edge in shots, senior goalie Emily Kruger (Woodside, Calif.) and the Bear defense allowed just eight shots within frame. Kruger tallied five solo saves to add to a pair of team saves.
"USC has had a string of results that they have not been pleased with, so we knew they were going to come at us as hard as they could,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire. “We had to make sure we withstood their pressure. I told the players that I’m very proud of them because no one has been able to break us so far. We have to do a better job offensively, but defensively I thought we did very well.”
Cal found just three chances in the first half – all within the frame -- but Mercik’s shot at 26:39 was good enough to grab the lead. The Bears won the ball midfield and started charging to the left. Sophomore Samantha Witteman (Redondo Beach, Calif.) drew a defender to the left, beating her out to send the ball to Mercik, who was waiting near the top of the circle to take a touch into the low left post for the score.
USC, meanwhile, misfired the ball seven times and was plagued by foul calls, eventually heading into the locker room scoreless Despite a 9-3 shot advantage and 2-1 edge in corner kicks.
The atmosphere of the game shifted in the second half as USC dominated possession for nearly all 45 minutes. The Bears held on to their lead through the 77-minute mark, but the Women of Troy once again owned a 9-4 lead in shots, this time getting four within the posts. Alex Quincey’s shot at 77:13, a ball deflected off the post and then slotted into the left side, leveled the score and sent the match into overtime.
“This conference is a very difficult conference, and there will be many, many games that go down to the wire like this,” McGuire said. “We’ve seen over the first part of the season in conference play, it’s very prominent in the Pac-12. USC outworked and outplayed us physically for large portions of the game.”
Cal made the adjustments after the end of regulation and kept better possession of the ball. The Bears nearly found net twice, forcing USC keeper Caroline Stanley to make a save in each overtime. USC got just one shot within the frame and the game ended in Cal’s fourth stalemate of the season.
“It’s tough because we held the lead for so long, but USC is a really good team. Just because some of their results haven’t shown that, they’re tough. They’re one of those teams that will fight no matter what their record is that season,” Mercik said. “I’m happy we fought through it. That second half was really tough for us but in overtime we really brought it. That’s what’s nice – that learning experience. We have UCLA on Sunday so we just have to get over it, and we’re still undefeated so we can’t complain.”
The Blue and Gold improve to a 13-game unbeaten streak for just the fourth time in program history as California heads into a crucial Top 10 matchup featuring No. 2 UCLA on Sunday at 11 a.m. on Goldman Field. The Bruins are 11-1-1 overall and 3-0-1 in the Pac-12 after beating Stanford Thursday evening on The Cardinal’s home turf.
“We’re stoked to play, and we’re stoked to play at home. This senior class hasn’t won against UCLA in these four years, and we’re due,” Mercik said. “If we play like we did tonight, and play with heart and smarts, we can do it.”
77:13 USC -- Quincey, Alex (unassisted)
USC 5 (Stanley, Caroline 5), California 7 (Kruger, Emily 5; TEAM 2)