Bears look to impress against battered Buffaloes, upgraded Utes

With its extra time victory against Arizona last weekend, the Cal women’s soccer team won its 10th match this season, eclipsing last year’s total of nine with five games remaining on the schedule.

As the Bears (10-3-2, 3-1-2) are on track to post their best record since 2007, a large part of their success is credited to the second-half emergence by the freshmen players, most notably midfielder Taylor Comeau.

After starting the season as a substitute, Comeau climbed up the depth chart to becoming an integral force in the middle of the field as a holding midfielder, allowing other midfielders like Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick to move up and attack. With Comeau as the extra defensive cover, the other midfielders are allowed to become more aggressive with the ball.

“Taylor is great at distributing the ball from the deep,” Fitzpatrick said. “She just needed time in the first half of the season to earn her spot. ”

Thanks to the recent emergence of Comeau, the Bears have shaken off their mid-season funk and won their last two matches. In their last weekend at  Edwards Stadium this season, the Bears will first face Colorado Friday at 3 p.m and Utah on Sunday at 1 p.m.

In their first season in the Pac-12, the Buffaloes and the Utes have had very different results. As Colorado’s season spiraled downwards to last place in the conference, Utah rocketed up to the top half of the conference.

In a span of five years, the Buffaloes (3-9-2, 0-5-1) have gone from a Sweet-16 force in the Big 12 to a last-place team in the Pac-12. Their three wins this season came against small schools like Colorado College, Northern Colorado and Cal State Bakersfield — hardly a challenge for a Pac-12 team like Colorado.

Not only are the Buffaloes losing games, they have also lost many of their players. Colorado lost so many players to injuries that they virtually played with only one substitute last weekend against Oregon. If Colorado cannot get some players healthy by Friday, they will pose no threat to the deep and healthy Cal squad.

Unlike the hobbling Buffaloes, the Utes (8-6-1, 4-2) has been soaring recently in conference play. Led by forward Erin Dalley who has scored two game-winning goals in the last three weeks, Utah enjoyed a five-game winning streak last month.

But like Dalley, Cal also possesses a clutch forward in Rachel Mercik. Now tied for second in the team with four goals, Mercik has scored two consecutive game-winning goals in the last two weeks against Arizona and USC.

Now the starting striker for the Bears, Mercik gave a lot of credit to Fitzpatrick, the midfield playmaker, who has developed a connection when playing together on the field.

“I see a lot of my qualities as a player in Mercik,” Fitzpatrick said. “We like to be crafty with the ball and Mercik just finds the right space to be at. She’s finishing what I create.”

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