Disappointing Finish Can't Overshadow Solid Season

Photo: Cal forward Ashley Glosz led the Bears with 14 goals and 30 points in 18 games for the 2008 season. Four of those goals were game-winners, helping Cal to an overall 13-5 record.
Nick Fradkin/File
Cal forward Ashley Glosz led the Bears with 14 goals and 30 points in 18 games for the 2008 season. Four of those goals were game-winners, helping Cal to an overall 13-5 record.

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At the start of the season, Cal field hockey coach Shellie Onstead-always careful to choose her words wisely-called this year's team "The Team."

"From the beginning, we had the feeling we were going to make a big impact this season," all-conference selection Andrea Lo said.

The 14-year coach never boasted or underestimated the competition, but she had reason to be confident in her team's talent. With a top-heavy roster featuring 2008 NorPac Defensive Player of the Year Rachel Moffitt, team points leader Ashley Glosz and nationally recognized keeper Kelly Knoche, it was a now-or-never season to utilize the talent of Cal's 10 seniors.

"I know I say it every year, but this year I really think that having all the seniors just made our bond so much tighter," Lo said. "This team is definitely more complete. The skill we had was solid all around."

The Bears gained momentum with every win, knocking off No. 10 Michigan State and No. 19 Albany during the regular season. And after its final East Coast road trip, Cal set its sights on a NorPac title and NCAA bid.

But after stumbling against Stanford in their last regular-season game, the favored Bears lost the conference championship in a 2-1 overtime decision to the Cardinal for the second straight year.

After Cal's steady rise-and even after its sudden fall-Onstead didn't rescind any early comments. Instead, she reinforced them.

Immediately following the NorPac championship game in which Onstead watched her team lose to a Stanford squad that they outshot and out-played, the Hall of Fame coach realized that things just didn't fall into place.

"What I told the team afterwards is that they're still the best team that's come through here this far and it just wasn't in the cards," Onstead said.

But even Onstead's high praise didn't sooth the sting of being denied an NCAA play-in game again by their rivals across the bay.

"We built our entire season to play those last couple games and it's still upsetting to think about," Lo said. "We all felt that we were going to make a mark this time. Having so many expectations and proving we can play with the top teams just makes this ending hard to describe."

Although this didn't end up being the Cal team to push past the first round in the NCAA tournament for the first time in Onstead's tenure, the Bears' coach didn't think that it detracted from the team's accomplishments.

"I'm incredibly proud of them," Onstead said. "I thought they were a fantastic team. My heart breaks for my seniors. It's very difficult to end a career on this sort of a finish. It's staggering, but they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for this season."

Onstead sympathized with her players because she knows the feeling. Although as a player Onstead was part of the 1983 national runner-up, she can't forget the final loss to Penn State.

"I try not to remember the stroke I missed to end our season as a senior in the national tournament when we hosted it," Onstead said. "But I still have good friends from that team, so you take the good with the bad."

If the seniors follow Onstead's example, their season-ending loss won't be the only memory. And if the returning players have learned from the veterans, perhaps Onstead will have another team to call "The Team" as early as 2009.

"A bunch of the girls had a workout yesterday and they said it was weird not having the seniors around," Lo said. "But then we said that they've grown so much and learned so much. As long as they take that with them and are confident then they will be able to step up and hold on for next season."


Contact Caroline Ogawa at [email protected]

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