First Road Win Comes Against UC Davis in Regular-Season Finale

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DAVIS, Calif. -- Stanford field hockey coach Leslie Irvine cautioned Cal coach Shellie Onstead about field conditions at Aggie Stadium as Cal got set for Sunday's match.

"People don't understand how field conditions can totally alter your style of play," Erin Magill said before the Bears' 5-3 win over UC Davis.

The Aggies' unwatered, long-bladed turf was rumored to be unpredictable and Onstead was prepared for something akin to Pacific's notorious grass field.

But when the Bears arrived in Davis on Saturday afternoon -- a full day before their match -- they found the Aggies' homefield advantage was even greater than expected. Onstead was thankful to have the extra day to acclimate.

"It was worse than Pacific," Onstead said. "(Aggie Stadium) is going to be the bad field now -- even more than a grass field."

On the slow turf, a powerful sweep was rewarded with nothing more than a short-range ball and a shower of black, rubber pellets. Cal lost its finesse and was forced to resort to a big hit and run game. As Onstead said, it was like "high school."

"I knew beforehand they weren't going to have their moves and skills so they just needed to focus on the trap -- and that was a best case scenario," Onstead said. "This was a worst case scenario, so I just said, 'Go out there and play your best high school game.'"

Onstead started three true freshmen, hoping their memories of high school play would resurface. But the other nine on the field have spent years trying to evolve and shed those old tendencies.

"I forgot how to play on a surface like this," Megan Shimojima said after she added two more goals to her season total in Sunday's game. "We work so hard to correct our bad habits from high school, but we had to revert back (on Sunday) -- in a good way."

Perhaps it was the field conditions that sent the Bears into an early 1-0 deficit against the Aggies. The slow hits created bunching on the field, and UC Davis was well-prepared to capitalize on ensuing breakaways.

"That's our strength," Aggies coach Vianney Campos said. "Our forwards have a lot more speed than most other teams' defenders."

But despite the start, it was a win for the Bears -- their first and only road victory of the season. In their last regular season match, the Bears staved off a 0-10 road record.

Magill earned her seventh goal on the year, tying the team's top goal-scorer. Lisa Lohre found her flick, notching two goals on penalty corner plays designed the day before when the Bears were forced to scrap all their set pieces to adjust to the slower turf.

Although Onstead was thankful for the win before the postseason, she still saw lapses in judgment that gave the Aggies their third goal on a late short corner, and a lack of poise that created the early one-goal deficit.

"We started off poorly, and I could just see it on their faces that they were starting to let up," Onstead said.

It was the same kind of slow start from Friday's game against Stanford, when the Bears allowed the Cardinal to garner a 3-1 lead before the half. In that contest, Cal's unproductive first half led to its downfall in a 4-2 loss at Varsity Turf Field.

"We need to figure that out in the next 10 days (before the conference tournament)," Lohre said. "I don't think its confidence because we're all ready to win this. But I still don't know what it is."


Contact Caroline Ogawa at [email protected]

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