Cal Holds Lead Over Radford to Advance to Semis

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Overtime is the last thing that any team in the NorPac tournament wants in the quarterfinal round. The combination of fatigue and added time is hardly optimal, given the three games in three days structure of the tournament.

So what is the one surefire way to prevent extra minutes? Score early and score often.

The Cal field hockey team did just that in its 3-2 triumph over Radford. High-scoring matches was the theme of the opening round, in which the victors of the four quarterfinal matches netted a total of 21 goals.

When the Bears last saw the Highlanders in their 2009 semifinal matchup, Cal needed both halves of the game to score its three goals, with two of them coming in the second. On Thursday, the Bears garnered three goals within the first 20 minutes.

"We went out and controlled the game very well," coach Shellie Onstead said. "We scored an early goal, and that got us going pretty well."

Cal's first goal was reminiscent of its opening score against UC Davis in September, when sophomores Megan Shimojima and Rachelle Comeau notched a goal on a two-on-one breakaway early in the game. Once again, the two forwards teamed up to give the Bears a quick 1-0 lead in the third minute.

Though the Highlanders equalized on Megan Lenhardt's goal seven minutes later, all-conference selection Megan Psyllos ensured that the tie didn't last long. And Cal's early three-goal outburst wasn't limited to just its players with postseason experience.

In her first NorPac tournament match, freshman Andrea Earle tallied a goal on four shots. The midfielder scored on a breakaway in the 20th minute which proved to be the difference.

"It was a really great pass from one of my teammates and I just took it down the field on the right and tried to drive the goal," Earle said. "We had been practicing a lot of elimination skills, so I was happy that I could capitalize on the things we had been practicing so much."

After allowing three goals in the first half, Radford keeper Jennifer Wisniewski blanked Cal's offense in the second, allowing the Highlanders to threaten in the final 10 minutes. The Bears' two-goal advantage became a tenuous one-goal lead when Melissa Register capitalized on a penalty corner.

"Letting them getting in 3-2 was a little bit disappointing, but at this level, you kind of expect the games to be close. We handled it pretty well," Onstead said.

Even with Radford's scare at the end of the game, Onstead believes that the team's early postseason nerves are out of the way. She rotated through her entire squad in order to rest parts of the starting lineup for today's 1 p.m. semifinal against No. 1-seeded Davidson.

"For some reason, Radford always matches up well with us and they always play us close." Onstead said. "I expect the same kind of effort from Davidson, but I think we'll be in a little bit better space and not quite as jittery."


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

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