It's hard to imagine that was how Cal State Bakersfield envisioned its second half going.
Entering halftime the Roadrunners trailed 1-0 on a 34th-minute unassisted strike from Cal State Fullerton's Callie Petrey-Juarez, but had built plenty of offensive momentum and created shot opportunities for striker Jamie Ingrassia. CSUB just needed to keep pushing forward and the shots would keep coming.
In the end, the Roadrunners only managed the "pushing forward" part.
"We connected and we possessed it more in the attacking third," coach Sebastian Vecchio said, "but for us being stretched out, that created more chances for them."
Despite plenty of offensive play down the left wing, CSUB (1-11-2) was outshot by CSUF 13-1 in the second half, and the Titans (7-9) eventually converted a penalty to boost the final score to 2-0.
It was a vexing result for the Roadrunners, who found their attacks repeatedly stymied and met by even more intense counterattacks from the Titans.
"We had a really good game plan, I think, coming into it," CSUF coach Demian Brown said. "It was a game (where) we were hoping that we could be more aggressive going forward, both running with the ball and with balls playing in, and I think our women really bought into that game plan tonight."
The gameplay was lively from the get-go for both sides, with Karen Flores feeding Ingrassia a lot early but the Titans' defense holding firm. At the other end, CSUF had a few incisive crosses that bounced uneasily through the Roadrunners' defense.
Neither team had a good chance on goal until the 19th minute, when Ingrassia got a clean first touch with her head, cut back to win space from Meghan Schroh, and aimed a left-footed shot into the corner, but keeper Noa Schumacher was right in position to stop it.
The Titans struck when CSUB pushed up too far in the 34th minute. After keeper Flavia Burrell came up to take a free kick, CSUF won possession and got the Roadrunners on their heels coming down toward the right side of the box. Petrey-Juarez took a deft dribble to the left to buy space from a trio of CSUB defenders and fired a low shot back toward the right corner that froze Burrell for the 1-0 lead.
The Roadrunners nearly equalized with four minutes left in the half. CSUB had six corners on the night; their services, as Vecchio put it, were "a little bit inconsistent," but on this occasion the ball reached Solei Moton. Facing away from the goal, she headed it weakly backwards. A couple of Roadrunners jumped to try and put their heads to the ball but missed, which faked out Schumacher briefly. The keeper got her hands on the ball, and when CSUB tried to kick it away, the referee whistled for a foul, ending the offensive.
"I think the women have really gotten to a point in the season," Brown said, "where defending set pieces and attacking set pieces are extremely important."
That was closer than CSUB could get for the remaining 49 minutes. Early in the second half, the entire game seemed to be played on one side of the field, CSUB's left and CSUF's right, with Dome Rodriguez tirelessly leading the attack for the Roadrunners but failing to link up with Ingrassia. CSUB didn't record its lone shot of the period until the 69th minute.
"We just got to create more chances," Vecchio said. "I think defensively, we're solid, but we're just not creating enough in the attacking third."
Meanwhile, the Titans were firing at will, necessitating some key saves from Burrell, who finished with seven on the night, including a diving stop on Petrey-Juarez after the defense gave her too much space near the goal. But shortly afterward, Caitlin Goetjen was whistled for bumping Nayeli Carcamo in the box, and Kaya Hawkinson drove a well-placed penalty to Burrell's left to double CSUF's lead.
It's the third straight win for a Titans team that started the year with six consecutive losses. CSUB, meanwhile, has recorded just one goal since its lone win of the season on Sept. 19.
CSUF travels to face UC San Diego Sunday afternoon. The Roadrunners will be back at home Sunday at 6 p.m. for a match with Long Beach State.