Holly Pears Delivers Game Winner In Overtime To Seal 3-2 Victory
Lowell, Massachusetts – The California field hockey team had an unforgettable moment in their final America East contest, securing a 3-2 victory in overtime against UAlbany to claim the 2023 America East Tournament title.
After struggling to get shots on goal for most of the game and trailing 2-1, Bente Baekers scored her 17th goal of the season, tying the game with just over five minutes left in regulation. Goalkeeper Tina Jolly made a crucial save in the final seconds, sending the match into overtime.
In overtime, freshman Holly Pears stepped up and scored the decisive goal, making her the hero of the match. She received a pass from Sydney Decher and executed a backhanded shot past UAlbany’s goalkeeper Lara Behn (10-3) for the game-winning goal.
Cal’s win marked their first America East Tournament title and secured their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006.
Coach Donna Fong Director of Field Hockey Shellie Onstead praised the team’s performance in the second half, highlighting their impressive defense and improvement over the year.
Cal (12-7) had eight shots with six on target, while UAlbany (13-6) managed 16 shots with 10 on target. Alison Smisdom, America East Midfielder of the Year, played a notable role with five shots (three on target) for UAlbany.
Cal had a strong beginning, scoring in the first quarter with Maria Cambra Soler redirecting a shot by Daniella Rhodes. Rhodes was named the America East Tournament MVP despite an injury that forced her out of most of the second half.
Shift in Momentum
UAlbany gained momentum in the second quarter, applying pressure and tying the game with Smisdom’s goal. Cal regrouped at halftime and got back to their game.
Goalkeeper Tina Jolly put on a stellar performance, making crucial saves, including 20 saves in the season against UAlbany.
UAlbany Takes the Lead
UAlbany took the lead in the third quarter with a goal by Floor de Ruiter, benefiting from their consistent offensive pressure.
Cal managed to regroup in the fourth quarter, with Baekers scoring the equalizing goal, making it 2-2.
The game went into overtime, where Pears’ goal sealed the victory. Cal avenged earlier conference losses with their three tournament wins.
NCAA Tournament Ahead
Cal will soon learn its NCAA Tournament opponent and location during the Selection Show on NCAA.com.
Coach Onstead expressed her excitement, stating that the tournament win was the gateway to the NCAA Tournament, and they eagerly awaited the upcoming challenges.