Oct. 23, 2011
BERKELEY - Senior Danielle Brunache and sophomore Mekenna DeBack powered the No. 15 California women's soccer team to a 2-0 victory over Utah Sunday afternoon in front of 642 fans on Senior Day at Edwards Stadium.
DeBack put the Bears (11-4-2, 4-2-2 Pac-12) up with a goal just before halftime and Brunache, the senior defender, capped Senior Day with a goal off a penalty kick in the 84th minute. Cal dominated possession throughout, out-shooting Utah, 21-2 overall. Sophomore goal keeper Emily Kruger was rarely tested, en route to her sixth shutout and the team's eighth shutout of the season. The eight shutouts is the most since an 11-shutout season in 2007. The Bears finished their regular-season home schedule with a 6-2-1 mark.
"They were upset we lost on Friday," said Cal head coach Neil McGuire. "You have to credit our players from being able to re-group from a tough loss. They showed great character and I thought they were very good today. We created opportunities and we were able to score two goals but we still have to be sharper. Against Utah, we felt like our depth would give us an advantage and obviously for both halves we were able to create a great deal of offense.
"This is our eighth shutout of the season and they take great pride in that," McGuire added. "Starting from our strikers to our midfielders to our defenders and to Emily Kruger in goal, they value defense."
California honored its six-member senior class of Katie Benz, Danielle Brunache, Katrin Omarsdottir, Kaitlin Paletta, Katie Suits and Miranda White in a ceremony prior to Sunday's contest. The Bears honored Benz, their senior co-captain who is out with a season-ending leg injury, with one last appearance on the field at Edwards Stadium. The forward was in uniform and started the contest. At the start of the match, Utah promptly kicked the ball out of bounds so Cal could sub for her and send her out with a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd.
Feeding off the energy of Senior Day, Cal was aggressively early on. The Bears tallied nine shots in the first half, including four from Lauren Battung. The junior nearly gave Cal a lead in the 11th minute with a header that ricocheted off the post. Several minutes later, Suits fed Battung who broke free from her defender and fired off a shot that nearly snuck past Utah goalie Hannah Turpen. The Ute netminder made the nice save to keep the game scoreless at the time.
With under two minutes remaining in the opening period, the Bears finally broke through for a goal. Hassett fed DeBack from near the top of the box and the sophomore hit a low-line drive shot that found the back left corner of the net for the score. The goal was DeBack's fifth of the season.
She nearly had a second goal midway through the season half. The forward rocketed a shot past Turpen, but Cal was ruled offsides on the play, nullifying the score.
A hard foul inside the box from Utah (8-8-1, 4-4-0 Pac-12) resulted in a penalty kick for Cal and the coaching staff elected to have Brunache, their senior co-captain, take the shot. She calmly buried it for the two-goal lead.
"We decided to allow Danielle the opportunity," McGuire said. "She has been the stalwart of this team for four years. She gives her all every single day on and off the field. We thought it was a fitting opportunity to have one of the seniors score a goal on Senior Day."
"I just had to make it," Brunache said in describing her penalty kick attempt. "There is no way I can end on a missed PK. I have never taken a PK for this team. It was nice to be able to score for my team in my last effort at home.
"The day was bitter sweet," the senior added. "I am really happy we won, but really sad it was our last home game here."
Battung led all Bears with five shots, while Hassett finished with three to account for eight of Cal's 21 shots in the contest.
The Bears' defense snarled the Utes' attack all afternoon. They did not surrender a shot attempt from Utah until the 83rd minute.
Cal welcomed back its 2010 First Team All-American and United States Senior National Team star Alex Morgan to Berkeley at halftime. Morgan was presented her All-American award at halftime and signed autographs for fans in attendance, while also donating her signed U.S. National Team jersey to Cal.
Cal returns to action Friday as the Bears head North to face Oregon at 7 p.m.