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Cal Starts With Bonus-Pt Win

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Cal Starts With Bonus-Pt Win

Jess Lewis scored two tries against Chico State in Saturday's win. (Photo: Kaelin Pukke/Cal Women's Rugby)

UC Berkeley (Cal) started its league season in winning fashion, defeating Chico State 35-10 on Saturday. The bonus-try performance shot the Lady Bears atop the Pacific Mountain West’s standings.

The first 15 minutes were somewhat disjointed, with unforced errors destabilizing play. All American and captain Jessica Lewis, who has transitioned into a new role as scrumhalf, finally made good on favorable territory. The backs stretched the ball the width of the field, and Lewis weaved through traffic for first of her two tries, 5-0.

Chico was far from demoralized and All American flyhalf Megan Foster tied the game with a try. Foster’s opposite, Kelly Doran, answered the score two minutes before the break, giving the hosts a 10-5 lead after the first 40.

The Cal coaching staff advised the team to quicken its play. Chico State was surrendering penalties, and the Bears could exacerbate those mental lapses by getting to the rucks faster and moving the ball away from contact quicker.

About six minutes after the restart, outside center Stacey Wong pushed off several defenders to score in the corner. Rookie inside center Courtney Hendrickson followed with her first career try, and promptly added her second during the final quarter. More impressive than Hendrickson’s aggressive running and tackling was her ability to gel with teammates Doran, Wong and fullback CJ Whiteside (who was uncharacteristically absent from the scoreboard Saturday). The field hockey crossover is surrounded by All American talent and taking instruction well.

Lewis broke up Hendrickson’s two tries for a 30-5 lead with 15 minutes remaining. Chico State prevented the second-half shutout with seven minutes remaining, as inside center Natalie Oelsner dotted down, 30-10. But No. 8 Skyfire Knight ensured that Cal had the final say, scoring from five meters out after a sustained goal-line attack, 35-10.

As is typically the case, the dedicated work of the forwards allowed the backs-dominated box score to evolve. But given the opportunity, the pack likes to run and is comfortable in the open field, as demonstrated during Cal’s successful fall 7s season. In fact, three of the Lady Bears competing with Atlantis 7s in Las Vegas are forwards: All Americans Abby Vogel (prop) and Rose Russell (lock), and Knight (Lewis and wing Rosa Valdes will also attend).

Early indications suggest that the PMC West could be especially competitive this year. Perennial champion Stanford just barely escaped UC Davis last Saturday 14-12 and needed 77 minutes to pull off the come-from-behind win (read more). Davis earned a bonus point in the loss and will look to increase that point total on Saturday, when it plays Cal in week two. The teams saw each other twice at the Stanford Invitational in mid-January, and Davis won both by a combined 51-17.

Cal 1 0 0 35 10 25 1 5
Stanford 1 0 0 14 12 2 0 4
UC Davis 0 1 0 12 14 -2 1 1
Chico State 0 1 0 10 35 -25 0 0