Sarah Killion’s goal at 26:37 was the first time this season that the Bears allowed an opponent to score before halftime.
A season-high 1,228 fans attended Sunday’s match.
BERKELEY – No. 8 Cal held the second-ranked UCLA Bruins to just one goal in the Bears' first loss of the season, a 1-0 final at Goldman Field on Sunday afternoon in front of a season-high crowd of 1,228.
Still reeling from Friday evening’s double overtime match against USC, the Bears started the game slightly fatigued and allowed an opponent goal in the first half for the first time all season before reorganizing at halftime and coming out as the stronger team for the final 45 minutes.
“UCLA was the better team over the 90 minutes,” said Golden Bear head coach Neil McGuire. “In the first half, we were heavy-legged from the double overtime game against USC and we weren’t sharp. The second half, we made some adjustments and played much better. I thought we were the better team in the second half, but we didn’t do enough to win the game.”
Facing the top defense in the Pac-12, the Bears could not maintain possession of the ball in the first half. Senior Rachel Mercik (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) took Cal’s lone shot at the net 15 minutes in, but the ball was quickly halted by Bruin goalie Katelyn Rowland.
The Bruins’ hot start peaked at the 27th minute as Rosie White took a corner, sending a ball across through the 18 and creating a scramble near the net. Amidst the chaos, UCLA’s Caprice Dydasco got a foot on it, quickly passing it to Sarah Killion who volleyed it into the net before Cal senior keeper Emily Kruger (Woodside, Calif.) could recover.
“I lost it in a muddle of people, and unfortunately for us it popped out going back the way I came from. I didn’t get my eye on it until it was past me, so it’s something for me and all of us to work on,” Kruger said.
At the half, the Bruins had strong-armed the Bears with an 8-1 shot edge, despite only three shots within the frame.
A fresher Cal team reappeared after halftime, and the difference was apparent immediately as the Bears took control of the ball from the whistle. The total-team effort helped the Bears generate five shots in the final half, including one on target and a few just-high and just-wide looks. The Bruins, meanwhile, took six shots but were much more limited thanks to Cal’s aggressive defenders.
“Oddly enough, UCLA didn’t put a bunch of shots on frame. Compared to some of the other games where I was having to make big saves, it was quite different,” Kruger said. “I think it’s a tribute to us because compared to some of the other teams we’ve been playing, UCLA is a better attacking team and they have girls that can put the ball on the frame and my back line shut them down in the second half.”
As the final whistle sounded, the Bruins came away with the win to deal the Golden Bears their first loss of the season and snap a 13-game unbeaten streak. UCLA used a 14-6 edge in shots to defeat Cal despite a strong showing by the Bears in the second half and UCLA’s slim 6-5 shot margin in the final period. Still, the Bears were pleased with their improvement in the second half of play.
“UCLA being the No. 2 team in the country, I think we proved in the second half that we’re capable of playing at that level,” McGuire said. “Being No. 8, I think we’re getting closer today and we showed that in the second half that we’re capable of playing for a championship, whether it’s a Pac-12 or national championship.”
Kruger, who tallied six saves in the loss, echoed McGuire’s sentiments.
“Today, we came out and it was a loss, but that performance in the second half was by and far the best we’ve played,” Kruger said. “Moving forward, that’s what’s important. Yes, the results and rankings look like that’s what’s important, but I think performance is what will carry us through to the tournament and the rest of the season. We can see we have it in us, and it was a reminder that we can compete with the best teams in the country.”
On Friday, Cal closes out play at home with a Senior Day match vs. Colorado at 1:30 p.m. before the Bears hit the road for their final five regular-season matches.
26:37 UCLA -- Killion, Sarah (White, Rosie;Dydasco, Caprice)