Nov. 12, 2011
Santa Clara, Calif. - In a thrilling NCAA Championship first-round match that remained tied through regulation and two overtime periods, the California women's soccer team defeated No. 11 Santa Clara in penalty kicks, 4-3, Saturday afternoon in front of 961 fans at Buck Shaw Stadium to advance to the second round of the tournament.
After Cal jumped out to the early lead with a goal in the 32nd minute, Santa Clara countered with a score in the 57th minute and the teams remained tied at 1-1 through the regulation and two overtime periods, forcing the match to be decided in penalty kicks.
Cal, which received another solid seven-save performance from goalkeeper Emily Kruger, inserted Kathleen Messinger in goal for the penalty kick shootout. Sophomore Emi Lawson stepped up first for the Bears and calmly knocked in the penalty kick opportunity before Santa Clara countered with a successful attempt by goalkeeper Bianca Henninger. The Bronco's netminder quickly returned to her role in protecting the goal mouth and came up with a huge save on Kate Bennett's penalty kick attempt for the Bears. Meleana Shim then gave Santa Clara the early lead, finding the back of the net on her PK opportunity. Thelma Bjork Einarsdottir was up next for Cal and the freshman buried her attempt into the left corner of the goal. Bridgett Miller's attempt for Santa Clara went wide of the post and teams were even through three tries each. After successful attempts by Lauren Battung for the Bears and Kat McAuliffe for the Broncos, the two teams entered the final round of the five-penalty kick shootout tied at 3-3. Senior Danielle Brunache was up first and the co-captain found the back of the net to put the Bears ahead, 4-3.
Santa Clara's Ellie Rice stood in the way of a California victory. The sophomore was called on to take the Bronco's final penalty kick attempt in the shootout. Her attempt was directed toward the top-right corner of the net, but an alert Messinger was right there to make the diving save and give Cal the win, igniting an on-field celebration from the Bears.
"I read all of the shots up until that point and I was really close on every single one of them," Messinger said. "That last one, I had a strong feeling she was going to a certain side and I committed myself to that area and went for it. As soon as it was over, everyone started rushing towards me and we celebrated on the field. It was great to do it for the seniors."
"I think it is important that we first give credit Santa Clara," said Cal head coach Neil McGuire. "I think both teams played very well tonight. It was a very even match between two great teams and hard-fought on both sides. I am very pleased for our team. I couldn't be more happy for our players. They are not ready for this season to be done."
Cal, which avenged a 3-0 defeat to the Broncos on the same field earlier in the season, advances to the second round of the NCAA Championship for the second time in the past three seasons. The Bears will face Boston College, who defeated Marist 6-1 on Sunday, next Friday at 4:30 p.m. on the Stanford campus.
"We knew it was going to be a fight," McGuire added. "We knew we didn't play as well as we could have in the first meeting and we showed that tonight. I am very proud of our team."
Long before the match was decided in penalty kicks, Cal had jumped out to an early advantage with a goal in the 32nd minute. Sophomore Rachel Mercik got the scoring play started with a lob pass to lead fellow sophomore Genessee Daughetee down the sideline. Daughetee crossed the ball into the box where Battung received it and worked away from a crowd and managed to find an open Lamet, who punched in the score from five yards out.
The goal was Lamet's third of the season and her first since Sept. 18 at San Francisco.
Miller came close to tying it up for Santa Clara just before halftime, but her shot from close range was just wide of the far post.
The Broncos opened the second half in aggressive pursuit of the equalizer and got the tying score just over 10 minutes into the period. Santa Clara's Julie Johnston fired a shot that bounced off the far post but Cali Reis was there to coral the ricocheted ball and knock in the goal from five yards out to tie it up at 1-1 at 56:12.
The Bears rebounded quickly from the score and nearly re-captured the lead as Battung snaked through the defense to move into the box and force a one-on-one situation with the goalie. Henninger approached Battung and made the save from close range to keep the match even.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick and senior Miranda White each had close scoring opportunities later in the second half with White sending a shot just high of the goal right before the end of regulation.
Santa Clara's best opportunity to score in regulation was snuffed out by a diving save from Kruger.
The Broncos opened the first overtime period with a pair of scoring chances as Katie Speidel sent a shot wide of the near post and Sofia Huerta followed with a shot just high of the cross bar.
Battung had the Bears' best scoring opportunity in the first overtime period with a low shot that was saved by Henninger.
Two minutes into the second overtime period, Rachel Mercik took a feed from Betsy Hassett in the box but her shot was just wide of the post. Cal had one final chance in the second overtime period when Sandra Ley got a shot off from the top of the box but Henninger made the save to send the match into penalty kicks.
California out-shot Santa Clara, 17-15, in the match with Kruger and Henninger each recording seven saves.
"We played really well tonight," said Brunache. "I am so proud of my teammates. "We have the determination and the drive to go far in this tournament. We have to just take it one game at a time."