Oct. 9, 2011
BERKELEY - Sophomore Rachel Mercik and freshman Taylor Comeau each scored for the No. 18 California women's soccer team en route to a 2-0 shutout victory over USC Sunday afternoon in front of a season-high home crowd of 648 at Edwards Stadium.
With the victory, Cal improved to 9-3-2 overall, matching its victory total from 2010. The Bears are now 2-1-2 in the Pac-12. USC fell to 3-11 overall and 0-5 in the conference.
It was the second shutout of the weekend and sixth of the season for the Bears, who are one shy of their total of seven shutouts all last season. Cal and No. 2 UCLA played to a scoreless draw on Friday.
"We knew coming into this game, regardless of their record, USC was a very talented team," said Cal head coach Neil McGuire. "Ali Khosroshahin is a fantastic coach and you know it is always going to be a battle. We felt like it was a game that was going to be won or lost in the last 30 minutes. I am very proud of our players and very excited for the Bears. We heard our fans and it was great to see the players feed off of that energy.
"This was an important weekend for us," McGuire continued. "We had two big, emotional games in two days. After facing UCLA and playing them well, it is hard to come back two days later from an emotional game like that. I felt like the girls were as prepared for today as they were for Friday. It shows that we are maturing at the right time and we are playing good soccer."
Cal was aggressive early, nearly scoring a pair of goals in the first period. From 30 yards out near the sideline, freshman Thelma Bjork Einarsdottir connected on a ball that curved inside the far post where USC goalie Shelby Church tracked it down for the stop. Church didn't completely coral the ball and an alert Betsy Hassett tried to punch in the rebound. Her attempt was just wide of the post. The Bears came close to getting on the board just before halftime as well when junior Lauren Battung fed Hassett, who had a clear shot from the top of the box. Church, however, came up with the stop again for the Trojans.
Less than three minutes into the second period, Cal capitalized on a corner kick opportunity for its first goal. Sophomore Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick served the ball into the box right to Rachel Mercik, who headed it in for the score at the 47:40 mark. The sophomore duo hooked up to score Cal's previous goal as well with Mercik netting the score off a Fitzpatrick assist at Washington last Friday night. Cal did not score in each of its previous two matches prior to Sunday's contest.
The Bears benefited off a corner kick once again to extend their lead to a pair of goals a little over 10 minutes later. Einarsdottir served the ball into the box where a crowd bounced it around. It was eventually ricocheted out to a waiting Comeau, who drilled a shot from 25 yards out right into the back of the net for her first career goal.
"I was real excited," said Comeau in describing her first career goal. "During corners that is my spot and I have had chances from there before but a lot of times they have gone over the goal. I was thinking about my technique and it paid off. My teammates were all celebrating with me. It was great."
"We are very pleased for Taylor," McGuire said. "As a freshman, she is logging some of the most minutes on the team. We have put a lot of emphasis on her role. She does so much work defensively. I was very happy to see her get that goal."
Sophomore Emily Kruger had another strong game between the posts with a pair of saves. She notched her second-straight shutout and fourth overall this season. Church finished with four saves for the Trojans.
California out-shot USC, 17-10, as Hassett led the way with four and Mercik was right behind with three.
It was the Bears' first victory over the Trojans since 2005, snapping a four-match losing streak. The schools posted a scoreless tie during the 2006 season.
Cal returns to action next Friday as the Bears travel to Tucson, Ariz. to face Arizona at 7 p.m.