Cal Remains Optimistic in Down Year

Photo: Junior forward Andrew Wiedeman ended the season as the Bears' top goal-scorer. Wiedeman had 11 goals, five of them game-winning, and was named All-Pac-10 first team.
Eddie Rosenbaum/Staff
Junior forward Andrew Wiedeman ended the season as the Bears' top goal-scorer. Wiedeman had 11 goals, five of them game-winning, and was named All-Pac-10 first team.

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When the Cal men's soccer team took the field at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium on the Stanford campus last Saturday they knew it probably was going to be the last game of their season. And for some, like Jacob Wilson, the last game of their careers.

"We knew it would be a long shot," Wilson said about moving on to the NCAA tournament later this month. "And obviously if we lost there would be no chance, but (regardless) it's always good to go out with a win."

And sure enough, the Bears (9-8-1, 3-6-1 in the Pac-10), who seemed to play with a looseness and tenacity which they had lacked during long stretches of the year, came away with a gritty 1-0 victory in hostile territory.

"It was my last game," Wilson said with a grin. "I enjoyed every minute of it."

The feel-good game against the No. 17 Cardinal (10-5-2, 4-4-2 in the Pac-10) was a glimpse of what the season was expected to be for the now beleaguered Bears. They were prematurely crowned the team to beat in the Pac-10, hovered around top-five in the country for the first months of the season and were ready to storm into the NCAAs come November.

And then came the Pac-10 slate.

In retrospect, those responsible for the rankings might need to polish their crystal balls, as Cal dropped six games in Pac-10 play including 2-0 shellackings at the hands of Washington and San Diego State.

A frustrating regular season gave way to an NCAA tournament snub bringing the season to an anticlimactic thud of a finish.

But if you ask any of the players or coaches, they will tell you it was not all for naught.

"This year should not go down as a disappointment," coach Kevin Grimes, "because of everything we took from it that's going to propel us into the future."

One such propellant was the emergence of a cadre of talented young players who were afforded multiple opportunities to prove themselves when starters went down with injuries.

Players like freshman Tony Salciccia were pleasant surprises for the Bears. Salciccia, in only six starts, managed to become Cal's fifth leading scorer while freshman like Steve Birnbaum and Chris Ortega stepped into a haggard defensive line and provided quality minutes as starters nursed injuries on the sideline.

But the freshman all played second fiddle to the ever-impressive Andrew Wiedeman show.

Wiedeman, a preseason All-American, scored 11 goals for a total of 26 points on the season. The junior forward may be responsible for one piece of hardware the Bears might still be able to bring home in the Hermann Trophy, soccer's Heisman, as Wiedeman played to form all season.

With these successes, Grimes saw many positives in the 2009 campaign.

"They did everything in their power this whole season to make it right," Grimes said. "They dealt with losing in such a professional and healthy manner and all they did was keep coming back to training and keep trying to get better.

"(I'm) just amazed at their maturity and the togetherness of this group. These guys are like brothers-and they should be. And that's why I'm not disappointed with this season. If you only look at the results, then everybody is missing the boat here. You have to look at all the other underlying factors that were so good."


Contact Chris Haugh at [email protected]

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