STANFORD – Playing in the postseason for the first time in five years, California lost a hard-fought battle to Santa Clara, 1-0, with just over two minutes remaining in the third overtime period Friday evening at Maloney Field.
The Golden Bears (10-9-1) dominated regulation but couldn't convert on any of their 12 shots to the Broncos (12-8-0) three.
“In regulation, it was a hard-fought match, but I really thought we created the better chances to score," said Cal second-year head coach Kevin Grimes.
“Even though I thought it was an even game end to end, I thought we created more goal scoring chances and more opportunities (in regulation). I was really proud of the effort we gave.
“Santa Clara took over a little bit in overtime. They seemed to get a little bit more of a territorial advantage. As the game creeps that late into overtime, both sides are fatiguing, and it's really tough for these guys to make their best decisions when their legs are so heavy. I thought both teams played outstanding. Any time you go into sudden victory overtime, it’s one chance that ends it, and they got their chance and put it away.”
Cal senior forward Austin Ripmaster was the most dangerous player for the Bears in the game. He was the only Bear who could consistently get behind the Bronco defense. He came up with several one-on-one opportunities throughout the game with the best being with eight seconds left in regulation.
Senior midfielder Chris Roner freed Ripmaster with a through ball, and SCU goalkeeper Steve Cronin came out to challenge the play. Ripmaster dribbled around Cronin and had an empty net ahead of him, but his shot sailed over the cross bar.
“There's not really much to say," said Ripmaster about his final shot of regulation. “It was a great ball through from Chris. I got on the end of it and touched it around their keeper. The ball was kind of bouncing and slipped off of my foot a little bit. I really couldn't believe it, but no excuses; I missed a good chance to end it there.”
Each team had their chances in overtime, but SCU held a 12-2 advantage in shots in the extra minutes.
In the 98th minute, the eventual hero of the game Anthony Chimienti had his own empty net chance, but his shot rolled wide of the net.
In the 117th minute, Santa Clara had a goal waved off due to a handball in the box.
The Bears’ defense played outstanding for the entire match, but couldn't make the one clearance it needed to in the 133rd minute. SCU's Burke Ewers took a free kick from about 30-yards out. After a Cal defender’s initial attempt to head the ball out of danger, two Cal defenders tried to clear the ball about five-yards out to the left of the goal, but Chimienti pounced on the ball and drove it towards the far post for his fourth-straight game-winning shot.
Chimienti's shot gave the Broncos a 15-14 shot advantage for the game.
Earlier this season, Cal defeated SCU, 1-0, in double overtime in Berkeley on a goal from freshman Michael Munoz.
Cal has reason to believe that more trips to the NCAA Tournament are on its horizon. Six members of the Bears starting 11 today were freshmen. Meanwhile, Santa Clara faces third-seeded Stanford Sunday in the second round of the playoffs.