Stanford's Press Breaks Through Bears' Defense

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The banner hoisted in the bleachers of Edwards Stadium during the Cal women's soccer team's home games reads, "It's a perfect day for soccer!"

That statement didn't really apply for the Bears as they took on undefeated Stanford in Saturday's "Bay Area Derby." The game started with rain and ended with Cal's fourth conference loss, a 3-0 defeat against their biggest rival.

But "perfect" adequate describes the conditions on the other side of the field. The top-ranked Cardinal (16-0-2, 7-0-0 in the Pac-10) shut down the Bears to hold on to their perfect record.

"In 14 years of college coaching, that's the best team I've ever played against," Cal coach Neil McGuire said. "It was like playing against Chelsea."

The Bears played with motivation in the emotionally charged match. Stanford's offensive system was capable of breaking past Cal's back line, but defensive tenacity kept the Cardinal scoreless for almost 20 minutes.

In the 19th minute, the Bears' freshman goalkeeper Emily Kruger's save went out in favor of the second consecutive Stanford corner. The Cardinal's Lindsay Taylor knocked in the rebound from that set piece.

Five minutes later, Christen Press solidified the Cardinal's lead. She turned inside of a Cal defender who was on her back, and fired the ball into the right side of the net. Press' speed tested the Bears, particularly Kruger, who saved nine of Stanford's 23 shots - 10 of which Press took herself.

Cal held the Cardinal off until the 81st minute, when Press finished off the game with a breakaway, drawing Kruger out of the net for a shot on open goal.

"(Press has) got wheels, so that was a hard one to stop," co-captain Emily Shibata said.

The Bears spent most of the game doing the runaround against the Cardinal's almost flawless possession. The disadvantage would cost Cal the game.

"Stanford is so good in possession, so when you press you open up space behind you," McGuire said. "When you open up space behind you, you bring in players like Press to take advantage of your back space. Unfortunately, no matter what system we played, our inability to keep the ball and their ability to keep the ball was problematic."

Losing against a team whose most recent defeat was last year's NCAA championship against North Carolina isn't unexpected, but the Bears (7-5-5, 2-4-1) still see room for improvement.

"I'm just frustrated cause I know we're better than that, but we played a little bit too scared at times, and it showed," Shibata said.

"We need to have that type of play, possession, speed, everything. So from that we learn."


Alex Matthews covers women's soccer. Contact her at [email protected]

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