Cal Caps Season With Playoff Bye





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At 7:06 p.m. last night, the hard work paid off.

Gathered with friends and family before the television sets at Kip's, the No. 8 Cal women's soccer team had reason to celebrate when the brackets for the 2000 NCAA College Cup were announced live over a satellite feed.

The Bears reaped the rewards of one of their best seasons in program history when they were given the No. 8 seed for their bracket and a bye for the first round.

"Now we start all over again," said Bears coach Kevin Boyd to his team after the announcement. "As you can see, we have a tough road ahead of us."

Barring any last-minute scheduling changes by the NCAA, Cal will play the winner of the Cal Poly/Santa Clara game Saturday at 1 p.m. in Edwards Stadium.

Stanford, San Jose State, and BYU are the other three teams in its bracket. The Pac-10 had seven teams selected to the 48-team field, more than any other conference in the country.

The announcement came just four hours after the season concluded with yet another easy win for Cal. The Bears cruised past Oregon, 4-0, for their school record 17th win.

Cal (17-2-1, 7-2 in the Pac-10) overcame Oregon State, 2-0, Friday in a game that featured phenom striker Laura Schott, who tied the school record for goals in a season with her 23rd score of the year.

The record serves as further confirmation of Schott's status as one of the country's premier strikers. She is tied with Olympian Joy Fawcett, who set the record in 1987.

"What can you say?" Boyd said. "She's helped us win games."

Schott accomplished the feat on a day when Cal put in one of its best performances of the season, outshooting the Beavers, 18-3.

Cal got on the board just five minutes into the game when Natalie Stuhlmueller nailed a ten-yard shot that would prove to be the game winner against OSU (6-13-2, 0-7-2 in the Pac-10). Brittany Kirk received credit for the assist.

After a week of practice where Boyd emphasized bringing fun into playing the game, he saw results.

"I wanted to see a lot of excitement and intensity," Boyd said. "I thought we did that.

"That was probably our best game all year."

That is not to say the team feels content.

"I didn't feel completely comfortable," sweeper Tami Pivnick said. "They didn't get too many shots off, but I think we need to get better."

Schott only added to the excitement when she scored the insurance goal to seal the win.

The sophomore - in her usual low-key way - would not allow herself to get too excited about the record.

"It feels good," said Schott after the game. "Hopefully I can break it Sunday."

Unfortunately, she would not get the chance. Her knee began swelling up after Friday's game and caused her to sit out the final game of the year.

"She could have played," Boyd said. "We struggled with whether to play her."

But it became clear to the team what the decision should be.

"Either I play and risk an injury or I sit," Schott said.

The choice was made easier by the team's offensive depth. Even with Kyla Sabo - the Bears' second-leading scorer - sitting out as well with an illness, four different players stepped up in Schott's absence Sunday and put away the Ducks (4-15-1, 1-7-1 in the Pac-10), starting in the second minute when Lucy Brining scored from three yards out.

Krysti Whalen, Kathleen Cain, and Lee Ann Morton followed with goals of their own. Regina Holan had three assists on the day.

Lost in the excitement of the impending playoffs and records being challenged was the fact that Sunday's win acted as the final regular season home game for five seniors.

"It's bittersweet," said goalkeeper Maite Zabala, who is having her best year yet with a career high 0.62 goals against average coming into the week. "I'm really sad, but at the same time I couldn't have asked for anything better here."

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