1996 Women's Soccer Review

There's now doubt about it, in finishing the season with a record of 13-3-2 overall (5-2 Pac-10, second place) the 1996 edition of University of California women's soccer definitely produced a break-through campaign. Not only were Cal's 13 victories the most for the team since the 1989 squad finished 14-3-1, but the Bears also produced their biggest turnaround in school history with an increase of five wins from 1995, when the Golden Bears finished 8-10-1.

Cal also finished the season as the nation's 20th-ranked team. It was the first time since the 1993 campaign when Cal ended the year ranked No 13, that the Bears had finished the season in the Top 25.

Success for this squad was found on all fronts. Offensively, the Bears had nine players score at least one goal last fall. In all, the Cal offense registered a total of 34 goals, a 70 percent increase in scoring compared to 1995 when the team tallied 20 goals. Individually, three players -- senior Rachel Davidson, junior Mary Oades and freshman Kim Brown -- netted a total of six goals and two assists apiece to lead the Bears scoring attack.

On defense, Cal was just as formidable. Owners of a Pac-10 best 0.67 goals-against average, the Bears shut out their opponents in an incredible 11-of-18 matches, setting a school record in the process for most shutouts in a season.

The Bears began the 1996 season with a five-game winning streak, four by shutout. Pacific, Colorado, Portland State, Oregon State and Hartford were quickly dispatched, (2-1, 2-0, 6-0, 3-0, and 5-0, respectively) with Pacific being the lone opponent to penetrate the Cal defense. Those first five games also provided fans with an early glimpse of the Bears style of play as Cal's offensive balance produced an attack in which eight players scored at least one goal.

Cal suffered its first defeat of the season in game No. 6 versus a scrappy Saint Mary's squad. Despite out shooting the Gales 21-11 and completely dominating the time of possession statistics the Bears fell by a 2-1 score.

The Bears quickly put the loss behind them, posting and undefeated record in their next five matches, four of which were played on the road.

Cal began the run with at 2-2 overtime tie against a talented contingent from the University of Michigan. Again the Bears dominated their opponent, outshooting the Wolverines 18-13 (4-2 in OT), but found themselves constantly playing catch-up.

In the next four matches, Cal continued to raise its level of play defeating Michigan State, 3-1, USC, 1-0, UC Irvine, 1-0 and Arizona ,3-0 to improve the its record to 9-1-1. The Bears attack was spearheaded during the run by senior Rachel Davidson. Davidson, who later would earn first team All-Pacific-10 All-Academic team honors, netted goals in three of the four matches, including the lone goal and game winner, on a sensational header to open the second half, versus UC Irvine.

However, the Bears could not keep the momentum going, and dropped their next two at Washington State, 1-0, and Washington, 4-1.

The Cal team bounced back to post a 4-0-1 record in the season's final five matches. The Bears improved their record to 12-3-1 defeating USF, 1-0, No. 17 UCLA in overtime, 2-1, and Cal Poly SLO, 2-0.

In the USF match Oct. 25., senior back Berkeley Bowers headed in a corner kick from senior midfielder Natalie Mariani midway through the first half for the first goal of her career, and Cooke posted her eighth shutout of the season.

Two days later against UCLA, the Bears and Bruins battled to a scoreless tie through regulation before Cal freshman Amy Balavac headed in a cross from Oades in the game's 98th minute. UCLA tied the score in the second overtime period, but Balavac tallied her second goal of the game with just four minutes left, knocking in a rebound off a shot by Alisha Lopez. Her two goals in the win over UCLA earned Balavac Pac-10 Player of the Week honors.

Led in the next match by Courtney Carroll, who registered both a goal and an assist, the Bears shutout eventual Big West Champion Cal Poly SLO, 2-0 for their third straight win. Senior Allie Kemp opened the scoring just eight minutes into the contest, taking a feed from Carroll and put it into the left side of the goal. At the 24-minute mark, Carroll fired a shot into the upper right corner of the net to wrap-up the scoring and the 2-0 Cal victory.

The following week promised to be the most challenging of the year. But the underdog Bears came through without a loss, playing to a 0-0 draw at sixth-ranked Santa Clara Nov. 5, and then besting Bay Area rival Stanford, 1-0, Nov. 10

Against the Broncos, Cook was again outstanding in goal, fending off 26 Santa Clara shots and coming up with 11 saves during the match. Versus Stanford, it was Kemp's cross to Lopez , who headed the ball into the net in the game's 68th minute, that provided the wining margin and also broke a nine-game winless streak against the Cardinal that dated back to 1988.

Despite that win, Cal finished second to Stanford in the final Pac-10 standings with a 5-2 conference mark, missing out on the Pac-10's automatic NCAA berth.

Overall, it was a successful season for the Bears in 1996. But despite posting a 13-3-2 record, Cal did not receive an NCAA at-large bid. A bit of unfinished business the Bears hope to accomplish in 1997.

"The 1996 team exceeded all of the player's expectations and all the expectations given to us in the last three years," said head coach Kevin Boyd. "However, we did not exceed my expectations by any means.

"The thing that was so encouraging about our team last year is that we kept getting better and better as the season went along," Boyd continued. "That is a trend I believe we will continue as we head into next season."