Cal ends tumultuous campaign

Photo: Vail Horn was Cal's second-leading scorer in 2011 with 33 goals. The junior midfielder's 47 points ranked third on the team.
Allyse Bacharach/File
Vail Horn was Cal's second-leading scorer in 2011 with 33 goals. The junior midfielder's 47 points ranked third on the team.

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Cal lacrosse started its 2011 season fighting for the life of the program. By the time the season ended, the team no longer was fighting for their future.

But the year's close still had news with important implications for the Bears' program. In addition to the players who transferred after the team's initial elimination, Cal will return for the 2012 season without head coach Theresa Sherry, who resigned on Tuesday.

Bookended by such dramatic changes, the Bears' final 9-8 record reflects the same ups and downs they experienced emotionally this year.

"Throughout the entire season was things are going to get thrown at us but we need to make the best of the situation," junior Tara Arolla said. "That's exactly what we did, we kind of just put that in the past, and moved forward with the group of girls that we had."

Though the Bears started with a 2-0 conference record, they hit a quick low point, dropping their first road trip to Longwood. Cal's season was marred with that kind of inconsistency; the team only managed to string together more than two consecutive wins once.

A high point for the Bears was their dominant 13-6 victory over Navy, which was at the time a top-20 team. But Cal chased that accomplishment with a devastating 16-4 loss at Ohio State to start their spring break road trip. In keeping with the roller coaster that was their season, however, the Bears turned their trip around with their only three-game winning streak of the season - defeating Drexel, La Salle, and Villanova.

"Spring break, we got off to a rough start, but from then on we realized that we just needed to focus on our game," Arolla said of the team's best spring break record ever. "Even though we may have not won every game after that, but I think it changed our mentality in terms of practicing and making sure that we were working on us."

Another issue for the Bears' than earning consecutive wins was accumulating 60 good minutes of play - potentially due to the lack of depth that came with players transferring.

"Sometimes we can be kind of a second half team," senior Emily Abbood said. "We want to be more than that."

The Bears' conference record made them look like anything but a second half team, however. In spite of their early MPSF wins, the Bears dropped three of their four late-season conference games, barely earning a place in the MPSF tournament. That low tournament seed saw Cal meeting No. 9 Stanford in the first round, where the team's season ended.

Because Abbood was injured this year and will be returning for 2012, the Bears will only graduate two players this year. Arolla will be returning for her senior year after finishing her junior campaign as the team's top scorer with 36 goals. Megan Takacs returns as a junior having finished her sophomore season with 48 points.

Even with most of the same players returning, Cal will have to adjust to the challenges that accompany working with a new coach.

Yet the unity of the team-particularly that it gained through this year's trials and tribulations-may mediate that obstacle somewhat.

"I only expect amazing things to come out of our team, just because we don't really have to get used to anything different," Arolla said. "We're all used to playing together."


Alex Matthews covers lacrosse. Contact her at [email protected]

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