EVANSTON, Ill. – California junior Lara Kruggel made her return to the pitch Friday afternoon and picked up right where she left off at the end of her 2012 NorPac Offensive Player of the Year campaign, but her game-tying goal at the end of regulation wasn’t enough as No. 12 Northwestern (6-1) defeated the Bears 2-1 in overtime at Lakeside Field
Kruggel, who missed Cal’s first four games after an injury in the preseason, debuted in Friday’s starting lineup for the Bears in what was a strong effort for California in their first true away game of the season. After the Wildcats took the lead in the 59th minute with a rebounded goal off a blocked shot, the Golden Bear prospects began to look bleak as the clock ticked down to the final minutes.
With less than 10 seconds remaining and the crowd beginning to pack up at windy Lakeside Field, the Bears (3-2) were awarded a penalty corner that senior Shannon Elmitt lined up for when the clock hit double-zeros. Elmitt’s penalty corner was stopped by Natalie Gibbens, and Kruggel fired the shot to tie the game and send it to overtime at 70:00.
Once in overtime, the Bears used the momentum of the late goal to quickly earn a penalty stroke just 28 seconds into the extra period. Kruggel took the stroke, but the Northwestern goalkeeper made the big save to prevent the Golden Bear goal. The Wildcats used the save as a swing in momentum and turned it into a goal of their own with Tara Puffenberger hitting the game-winner at 79:48.
“We struggled to sustain an attack,” California head coach Shellie Onstead said. “We had chances but had a difficult time. It was an up and down and back and forth game. I played Lara for the first time, and we were right in there. I was really proud of the fact that we battled down and won a corner as the whistle blew. I sent in the play from the sideline and Shannon did a nice job. She had to make a quick decision on that play. The goal energized the whole bench.”
The home team put early relentless pressure on California goalkeeper Courtney Hendrickson, but the junior made a career-high 12 saves to keep the Bears in contention throughout the night.
“We were under pressure a lot, but the defense played great,” Onstead said. “They’re proving that they’re a really solid group, and Courtney had an amazing game. Their coaches were very complimentary of her.”
California turns around Saturday afternoon with a game against the Ohio Bobcats at Lakeside Field at 11 a.m. (PT).
“We have to regroup,” Onstead said. “They really need to respond tomorrow or we’ll be pretty disappointed. Ohio is a very good team and unknown, so that’s what makes them dangerous.”