Bears Nearly Withstand a Hurricane of Carolina Shots

Photo: The Cal field hockey team held defending champion North Carolina to just one goal, something that no other team has done this year.
Allyse Bacharach/File
The Cal field hockey team held defending champion North Carolina to just one goal, something that no other team has done this year.

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Even in taking a loss, the Cal field hockey team executed a feat that only one other team can claim this season: holding defending champion North Carolina to just one goal.

And it wasn't due to a lack of effort on the part of No. 2 Tar Heels (11-0).

Given the intensity of East Coast field hockey, it would have been easy for the Bears (5-6, 4-0 in Norpac) to falter on the road under their opponent's 27-shot barrage while they managed just one attempt on goal.

"I'm pretty sure (North Carolina) will be the No. 1 team in the country tomorrow when the poll comes out," Cal head coach Shellie Onstead said.

"We're playing in their beautiful stadium just for field hockey. I mean, there's actually a Jumbotron here that plays replays during the game. This is an environment that we don't see much in field hockey. I think the team could have easily been intimidated."

Being in awe was not the strategy that helped Cal blank the Tar Heels until the 60th minute, when Kelsey Kolojejchick broke the deadlock with a shot from just inside the circle for her 12th goal of the season.

Moreover, North Carolina's reputation as a perennial field hockey powerhouse did not distract the Bears from achieving Onstead's goal of playing a full 70 minutes.

"I think we were disappointed with yesterday's performance and we knew that really wasn't what we were about and what we wanted to be," Cal keeper Maddie Hand said.

A lack of consistency plagued Cal in a 5-1 loss to No. 9 Wake Forest on Sunday, but even with the absence of a key player in the midfield, the Bears righted themselves on Monday to match the strength of the Tar Heels' squad.

"It was just a really complete game today. It was a big step up and I think they will be willing to hold themselves to this standard now and go forward and that, to me, makes it a successful trip," Onstead said.

A team-wide effort, from Hand's 13 saves to Lisa Lohre and Erin Magill's defensive saves, kept North Carolina in check.

"We really focused on our game and how we were going to play to represent Cal field hockey," Hand said. "(We wanted to) really focus on our strong suits and less about who North Carolina is and how they play.

On the press, we had to move as a team. Communication throughout the lines was the theme for today, so we set up from the front back and had to be in the holes. Defensively, it was about staying strong and midfield checking to open up holes."

Cal may have left North Carolina with its second loss in a row, but the quick turnaround - from dropping a decision to the Demon Deacons to limiting the Tar Heels to a single goal - bode well for the Bears' final stretch of the season.


Catherine Nguyen covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected]

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