By Justin Bercovich
Giving up a goal in the opening minutes against an upstart club wasn’t exactly what the undefeated UC Santa Cruz women’s soccer team was expecting when they hosted Cal State San Marcos’ first-year program last Saturday.
But that was the situation the Slugs faced when Clarissa Hidalgo put the Cougars on top three minutes into the game.
"After we gave the goal up, we really didn’t stay organized," Coach Michael Runeare said. "We let things get away from us. We played how they wanted us to play."
Despite the shaky start, the team remained focused and played with more intensity in the second half, getting the game-tying goal from freshman Katie Von Beroldingen with just a minute and a half remaining to pull out a 1-1 draw.
Freshman goalie Diana Lakeland could sense the shift in her team’s play in the second half.
"In the first half we were waiting for the ball to come and they were cutting in front of us, and everybody was frustrated," Lakeland said.
Von Beroldingen’s goal was the midfielder’s first of the season.
"We had to work our butts off, regardless of how tired we were," Von Beroldingen said.
Coach Runeare praised his team’s effort.
"We were applying pressure in the second half and we created a bunch of opportunities, and finally we had the right player at the right time," Runeare said. "We have been talking all year about following the original shot up, and we finally did."
With the draw, the Slugs pushed their season record to a spotless 9-0-3. Von Beroldingen credited the entire team for the early success, especially the Slugs’ defense.
"Our team as a whole is amazing," Von Beroldingen said. "We have a spectacular defense."
Coach Runeare attributed the Slugs’ strong play to the team’s chemistry, a claim Lakeland supported as well.
"We work well together," said Lakeland, who made only her third start of the year in net. "If someone is down, there is always someone there to pick them up."
Depth is another contributor to this team’s success, as a record number of players tried out for the squad this year, according to Runeare.
"This year we had 38 girls try out and all of them were quality," Runeare said. "Every year freshmen are coming in and pushing the upperclassmen to perform."
Last season ended on a sour note for the Slugs, as the team fell just short of a postseason berth despite an overall record of 11-4-2 (8-4-2 in Division III play). Runeare believes that avenging last season’s turnout has been a motivating factor for the players.
"I think the girls are driven a little bit about not going last year," Runeare said.
Though a berth in the postseason is still a long ways away, Coach Runeare seems confident that the Slugs will be able to make the most of their chance.
"If we get in the tournament, I think we can win it."