Season Analysis: Youthful Cal Squad Came Up Just Short

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This season the Cal field hockey team came within one step.

The Bears began the year with uncertainty after losing eight starting players from last year's successful squad. Among them was Megan Sainsbury, who compiled a school-record 47 points (15 goals, 17 assists).

Despite the lack of veteran players, Cal nearly replicated last year's stellar play.

The Bears captured the NorPac league title two weeks before conference play was even over. Cal went 11-5 overall, and went undefeated in the conference at 5-0 for a No. 1 spot at the NorPac tournament.

There was only one thing missing - an NCAA playoff berth.

Hopes for an NCAA play-in game were dashed last Saturday after a 2-0 loss to Stanford the NorPac tournament championship game.

"It is hard because we were just one step shorter than last season," Cal coach Shellie Onstead said. "Part of having a conference tournament is to make it exciting until the very end, but I'm still very proud of them."

Senior goalkeeper Sarah Hoehn captured the NorPac defensive player of the year award, and only allowed 1.15 goals-against average in the regular season.

"It is really great for Hoehn," junior defender Erin Robinson said. "Her stats show what a great player she is."

This season Hoehn saved 85.7 percent of the shots knocked her way. Hoehn finished her Cal career with a 1.47 goals-against average, including 13 shutouts in 55 games.

Rookie of the year for the conference went to Cal freshman midfielder Nora Feddersen. A native of Berlin, she led the team in scoring with five goals. Feddersen also had the most shots taken for any Bears player this season with 43.

Junior midfielder Elizabeth Harkins, who had 15 points (3 goals, 9 assists) and senior defender Leticia Galyean received second-team honors.

But Cal's success was not always so certain.

"I didn't know what to expect going into the season," Robinson said. "I knew we would get better as went go along and gained experience."

The Bears' initial wins came in overtime form. Four of the Cal's first six wins came in extended play, and its initial losses were suffered during an East Coast swing through Northwestern, Harvard and Boston University.

After the East Coast road trip, the Bears won seven of their eight remaining regular season games, with Cal's only loss coming against Cornell.

The Bears defeated Stanford twice this season. The first on Sept. 23 in penalty strokes, 1-0, and most recently on Oct. 29, 2-1.

Perhaps even more impressive, Cal's winning run came when two of the teams offensive leaders were out for over a month due to injuries.

Harkins pulled her hamstring on Sept. 23 during a match between Southwest Missouri State and was unable to compete for over a month.

The Bears also had limited access to Feddersen for over a month due to lingering affects of bronchitis.

The two absences forced many younger players to step into key offensive roles.

"This team as compared to last year didn't have just one or two star players," Robinson said. "If you look at who has scored, it isn't just one or two people. Everyone was really equal."

The Bears will lose three seniors this year who played major roles on Cal's defense - Hoehn, Galyean, and senior defender Leslie Katch.

But if the Bears are able to fill their graduation loss like they did this year, there is no telling what Cal will come up with.

"I know we will have a good chance to go to the championship," Robinson said. "We will have a lot of people back and it makes it that much more exciting for next year."


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