On Saturday afternoon, the Bears tied with the Menlo Knights after a Menlo goal with 2 minutes left made the score even.
After kickoff, the Knights started out on the attack, but many of their early attempts were thwarted by strong defense and communication from the Bears.
Senior defender Susie Wagstaff said, “Going into the game, we knew it would be a challenge, especially since we are both top of our leagues. We have had trouble in the past with communication, so I think we were definitely focusing on that throughout the whole game.”
Wagstaff did a great job controlling the game in the first half, with strong defense on the ball, finding the right spots, clearing the ball, and pushing up the field when needed.
As the game progressed, it became a slog in the trenches, as neither team could break out on the attack, so much of the possession stayed in the middle third.
With 23 minutes left in the first half, the Bears got their first legitimate chance near the Menlo goal. Unfortunately, the Bears weren’t able to capitalize on senior attacker Fabian Bolanos’ strong attempt.
Once M-A had their opportunity, the game jolted to life and the Knights got right back into it. Menlo continued to possess the ball on the Bears’ side for a while even though the Bears’ defense kicked out and entirely halted many of their chances.
The Knight’s best shot came with 11 minutes left in the half with an attempt that just barely went over senior goalkeeper Gigi Edwards’ head before she tipped the ball just over the net.
The Bears then went on a counterattack of their own, and, after numerous opportunities, senior striker Valerie Latu-Nava converted for a goal, putting M-A up 1-0 with 8:35 left in the first half.
Latu-Nava said, “We were really attacking well and we tried to take whatever chance we could get, and then we just made a shot right in the back of the net.”
The Bears were able to maintain their lead for the rest of the first half, so they led by one when the whistles blew.
Coming out of halftime, both teams seemed disorganized and played quite erratically, but M-A continued to dominate the field, predominantly controlling the ball.
Even when M-A lacked aggressiveness, Edwards kept them ahead, saving and stopping a few shots during an offensive onslaught by Menlo.
When Menlo couldn’t capitalize, tensions boiled over, resulting in much more physical play from both teams. Menlo received a yellow card for continued pushing and a harsh foul down the right side of M-A’s attack.
But still, the Bears also couldn’t keep it together. Junior midfielder Camille Melcher received a yellow card for a push. Then, just afterwards, senior midfielder Jimena Sandoval earned a red card after getting into a heated physical exchange with and pushing a Menlo player.
Despite the Bears’ inspired and aggressive play, Menlo was able to get past the otherwise stellar Edwards on a late goal with 2:25 left to go, evening the game as the clock wound down.
With the demoralizing goal past her, Edwards got right back into her groove with a few game-saving blocks to end the game even.
Edwards said, “Honestly, we knew it was going to come down to defense. We were playing down a man for the last 20 minutes and all we had to do was to stick it out and play our game.”
The game ended at 1-1. The Bears moved to 13-0-5 overall and 7-0-3 in league play with their last regular season game of the year, and will move on to play CCS in open division after their undefeated season.