Senior midfielder Brittany Kirk had a goal and an assist to lead the Cal women’s soccer team past third-ranked Santa Clara, 2-1, Friday at Edwards Stadium.
The seventh-ranked Golden Bears improve their record to 4-1, while the Broncos, the defending national champions, fall to 2-2. Cal beat the Broncos 2-1 last year in Santa Clara.
Both teams were missing starters – for Cal, forward Laura Schott and defender Kim Stocklmeir were out; Santa Clara missed U.S. under-19 national team defender Jessica Ballweg and forward Bree Horvath. But Santa Clara seemed to be hit harder than Cal, as the Broncos used just one player off its bench.
Kirk got the Bears on the scoreboard in the 23rd minute. Taking a Dania Cabello pass, Kirk spied Santa Clara goalkeeper Erin Pearson off her goalline and chipped Pearson from 20 yards out for her first goal of the season. In the 25th minute, Kirk again shot from just outside the Broncos’ penalty area, but her shot slammed off the crossbar. Cal’s Tracy Hamm pounced and struck the ball past Pearson to make the score 2-0. The goal was the freshman forward’s third this season.
“We were a little fortunate certainly on that first goal that went in,” Cal coach Kevin Boyd. “But you create your own luck when you’re working hard, and we’re working hard.
“I was laughing with them before the game that maybe they weren’t quite as strong in the net and that maybe we should shoot [more]. We just discussed that we want to follow up balls on the keeper because she might drop one.”
Boyd was going to substitute Kirk out in the first half due to the senior midfielder’s chronic foot problems, but her productive minutes changed his mind. Kirk didn’t leave the match until the 71st minute.
“We’ve been worried about her body and how it’s been holding up,” Boyd said. “But she got a goal and an assist on the second one. She was playing very well and had her confidence up. We were going to leave her until I saw her energy start to drop.”
Santa Clara improved in the second half, picking up its pace and creating more dangerous chances than it had in the first 45 minutes.
The Broncos finally scored in the 55th minute, taking advantage of a Cal foul on All-American midfielder Aly Wagner. Wagner took the ensuing free kick, firing it past the wall and Cal goalkeeper Sani Post into the lower right corner of the net for her third goal of the season.
The Broncos were a bit sluggish in the first half, perhaps distracted by the recent death of Lark Chastain, the mother of head coach Jerry Smith’s wife, U.S. national team and San Jose CyberRays defender Brandi Chastain. A few of the Broncos attended Lark Chastain’s memorial service Thursday.
But Smith wouldn’t make any excuses.
“We had a little bit of a tough week this week,” Smith said. “I just think you have to give a lot of credit to Cal. They played really well in the first half. I thought we outplayed them in the second half but didn’t create as many chances. They were the hungrier team and wanted to win the game more than we did.”