Cal Sneaks by Davidson With Nurnberg's OT Goal

Photo: The Cal field hockey team survived a scare from Davidson in the first round of the MPSF tournament with a 2-1 sudden death OT win.
Nick Fradkin/File
The Cal field hockey team survived a scare from Davidson in the first round of the MPSF tournament with a 2-1 sudden death OT win.

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During the week leading up to the NorPac Tournament, the Cal field hockey team made sure to prepare for what it considered "worst case scenarios."

Being pushed into overtime in a single elimination tournament against the third-ranked team in the Eastern Division is as close as it gets to a worst case scenario in the first round of the NorPac Tournament.

After finishing regulation tied 1-1 with Davidson, the Bears entered their third seven-on-seven situation of the season-still without an overtime win.

But after Natalie Nurnberg's one-timed hit to the far post, Cal advanced to the second round of the tournament with a 2-1 win. And the NorPac Offensive Player of the Year dropped to her knees, overwhelmed by emotion.

"There are seriously no words for what happened," Nurnberg said. "I'm usually all about celebration after goals, but I was just so happy. We deserved to win."

Before Thursday's match, Cal coach Shellie Onstead was clear to note this game against the Wildcats would be, "by no means a gimmie."

It was an educated guess because before the Bears' first game of the NorPac tournament, they hadn't faced any of the East Division teams. But quickly, Onstead's prediction proved all too accurate.

Through the first 35 minutes of scoreless play, the Bears posted only three shots and three penalty corners.

"I think it's confidence," Onstead said. "It's basic skill work and trusting your hits and traps, but it might also be a sign of youth."

First halves on Varsity Turf Field have been unkind to the Bears-postseason included. Thursday's contest was all too reminiscent of the Bears' game against Stanford two weeks before.

But it wasn't simply another slow start. It was 58 minutes of silence, wherein Cal went down by a goal on a penalty corner conversion by Annie Evans. And it wasn't until they were faced with an early postseason exit that the Bears responded with eight shots and six corners in the second half.

"If someone lights a fire right under your butt, you know you've got to get a move on," Nurnberg said.

Claire Dougherty must have felt the flames. She responded with her second goal of the season on a deflection 58 minutes into the game. The Bears were set to make a statement win-the same way that Stanford garnered an 8-0 win over Appalachian State to advance in the tournament.

If there was any statement made in Thursday's match, it was that the Eastern Division teams may be closing in on the West.

But there's one reason to believe Onstead and her team when they point towards their hopes at a tournament championship. It's the passion that the Bears played with when down by a goal, faced with elimination.

They've faced a worst case scenario, and prevailed to advance to the second round with today's 4 p.m. game against Radford.


Contact Caroline Ogawa at [email protected]

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