Bears Break Out of Slump in Style

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To say the Cal men's soccer team was anxious to get home would be a gross understatement.

In their last six games away from Edwards Stadium, the Bears had garnered only one tie and five losses. The offense had been virtually non-existent, scoring only two goals in those six games, while the defense allowed 19 to the opposition.

All of the adversity evaporated over the weekend, however, as Cal won back-to-back games for the first time this season, defeating No. 7 UCLA and St. Mary's, each by the score of 1-0.

The Bears (4-9-1, 1-2-1 in the Pac-10) were able to avoid the second half letdowns that plagued them throughout their first 12 games of the season.

"Our players used the second half more as a springboard and not a shell to fall back into," Cal coach Kevin Grimes said. "It's a sign of maturity and growth. It also shows that our team is finally getting fitter and healthier."

Coming into the match against the Bruins (9-4-1, 1-4-0) Cal had lost to Washington and Stanford by a combined score of 10-0. But the Bears had gained confidence in their showing against the Cardinal. Cal had played Stanford even through the first 45 minutes and had several solid scoring opportunities, but were unable to convert.

The momentum of their last match and the enthusiasm showed by the home crowd finally put the Bears over the edge.

"Our fans were scattered, but they were loud and energized," forward Austin Ripmaster said. "It was the first time we had a collegiate soccer atmosphere in awhile and we fed off of them."

The first half of the UCLA game was played much like many of the Bears' previous matches. Cal outshot the Bruins, 6-5, in the opening 45 minutes, but Bruin goalkeeper D.J. Countess turned all of the Bears' shots away.

Cal's best opportunity of the opening period happened in the 43rd minute when midfielder Ramiro Arredondo had a point-blank shot from five yards out and hit the crossbar.

Unlike the seven-game winless streak, the Bears were able to come out in the final period and continue their strong play through the end of the game.

The Bruins actually outshot the Bears, 7-3, but the one shot that counted belonged to Cal's Ripmaster.

The junior tallied his first goal of the season off a pass from fellow junior Chris Roner. Ripmaster blasted the shot from 12 yards out between the far post and Countess. The game-winner marked the end of a 275-minute scoreless streak for the Bears. Their last goal had come in the opening five minutes of a 1-1 tie with Oregon State.

Freshman Brian Walker made five saves for his second shutout of the season.

According to Grimes, the Bears' success can be traced to the starting lineup.

"The UCLA game marked the first time we used the same starting lineup in back-to-back games this season," Grimes said. "The momentum we had from Stanford carried us into the game against the Bruins. This was the best game we played all season."

Following the emotional win over the Bruins, it would have been easy for the Bears to suffer a letdown against their next opponent, St. Mary's. Grimes and his staff made sure that their team would not fall victim to a lull.

"We addressed the possibility of a letdown immediately after Friday's game," Grimes said. "We told our guys to enjoy the victory, but start thinking about St. Mary's."

"The energy our team had after the UCLA game was like nothing we had felt the whole season," Ripmaster said. "Coach told us to remember how the win felt and take it into the next game. St. Mary's was probably the most important game of the season."

Sunday's game against the Gaels (5-10, 0-2 in the West Coast Conference) proved to be tough for both teams due to less than ideal weather conditions.

"The wind was a huge factor, especially in the first half," Ripmaster said. "It was hard to judge the ball and we were unable to run down any through balls. We had to keep the ball on the ground."

The Bears used the wind to their advantage in the first half, however, outshooting the Gaels 14-3. Following the break, the shots evened up but the Bears were once again able to score a late goal to win the game.

Redshirt freshman Robbie Aylesworth took a pass from Arredondo and put it past goalkeeper Kellen Wilson at 81:27.

Cal goalkeeper Marco Palmieri made two saves to preserve the Bears' second straight shutout.


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