Wildcats Claw Bears in Evanston

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Friday's Cal lacrosse match ended the same way it began: with Northwestern scoring quickly and effortlessly.

The No. 2 Wildcats found the back of the net after one minute of game play for their first goal and kept the sticks to the pedal from there on out for a 19-8 victory over the Bears at Lakeside Field in Evanston, Ill.

"We knew it'd be a battle," Cal midfielder Megan Takacs said.

It was more of a slaughter. The Wildcats (6-0) dominated the Bears (3-3, 2-0 in MPSF) from beginning to end, limiting them to a season-low 18 shots while getting off 40 of their own. En route to a 9-3 advantage at halftime, Northwestern forced 10 turnovers while outshooting its visitors 21 to nine.

The lone bright spot for Cal defensively was the play of senior goalie Allie Shropshire, whose season-high nine first half saves kept the score respectable. She finished with 11 saves in 51 minutes of play.

"After half we wanted to come out and prove that we belonged on the same field with them," Takacs said. "We wanted to fight back and make a game out of it."

The sophomore midfielder scored three points - one goal and two assists - in the second period, but the Wildcats kept their claws out. Five consecutive goals increased Northwestern's lead to 18-5 midway through the half. All-American Shannon Smith blitzed the Cal defense for four goals and four assists. The junior leads her team with 40 points, 18 of which have come in her last two games.

"It's difficult to slow down great players, especially when they have the hot hand the way Smith does right now," Bears coach Theresa Sherry said.

Cal's offensive leader, junior Tara Arolla, has 19 points on the season after her third hat trick of the year. But the Bears, who were struggling with a different lineup due to injuries, had trouble finding a spark all game.

"The girls that could go worked hard today and never gave up," Sherry said.

With 10 minutes remaining, the Arolla finally awoke her teammates from hibernation with her final goal, which sparked the team to three unanswered scores. It appeared then that the battered Cal squad would end on a high note. However, the Wildcats scored, once again, in the final 10 seconds of play. The goal was a fitting end to a match in which the hardworking Bears were simply overmatched by a superior Northwestern team.

While there was no Cinderella magic in Evanston Friday, the Bears are not upset with their loss, believing that they can learn a lot from facing a powerhouse.

"I am actually proud of how our team fought today," Sherry said. "We made a lot of mistakes, but we had many brilliant moments as well.

"We are focusing on the positive things we did this game as we move onto the next phase of our season."


Jennifer Hansen covers lacrosse. Contact her at [email protected]

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