Ever since losing star striker Katie Benz, the Cal women’s soccer team has been searching for the offensive replacements to fill her painstakingly noticeable absence in the front lines.
It seemed the Bears (11-4-2, 4-2-2 in the Pac-12) found their goalscorer in forwards Rachel Mercik or Mekenna DeBack at times throughout the season. Despite the potential they have demonstrated periodically, none of the forwards have shown any consistency to claim the top striker position.
But in a pivotal weekend against Oregon and No. 19 Oregon State, these forwards will have another chance to find their goalscoring touch before the end of the season.
During last weekend’s matches against Colorado and Utah, Cal’s offense hit rock bottom. Despite their 41 shots in the two matches, the Bears scored only two goals this weekend, none of which came in the shocking 1-0 upset loss against Colorado.
“If you look at the higher ranked teams, they are getting three goals in seven chances,” midfielder Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick said. “They aren’t scoring one or two goals out of 20 opportunities like us.”
The poor performance last weekend did not go unnoticed by the coaches and the senior players. For an offense that amassed 30 goals in its first 10 matches, its lack of goals last weekend was seen as unacceptable.
“We basically had the captains and coaches calling us out after the weekend,” Fitzpatrick said. “Everybody holding each more accountable.”
With only two weeks left in the season, the Bears are heading up in critical away trip to Oregon. After a Friday night match against the Ducks at Pape Field in Eugene, Ore., Cal travels to Corvallis on Sunday for a big 1 p.m showdown against the No. 19 Beavers in Paul Lorenz Field.
Although the Bears are very likely to enter the NCAA tournament in a couple of weeks, the squad has its eyes set on hosting the first two rounds at Berkeley for the first time since 2000. If Cal can get two victories this weekend, its hopes are exponentially more likely to come true.
Although Oregon has enjoyed a rebound in the past few weeks, Cal’s biggest threat this weekend is against the Ducks’ intrastate rivals in Corvallis. Over the past three years, Oregon State has experienced a rapid turnaround under coach Linus Rhode as it catapulted from the bottom of the conference to a top-25 ranking.
But oddly, Rhode has yet to beat the Bears. The Beavers came the closest last year when they lost 1-0 in double overtime thanks to the golden goal by Fitzpatrick. It will be unlikely to see another 1-0 overtime match, as Oregon State is coming off a six-goal weekend against Washington State and Washington.
The Beavers will not likely have a problem finding the net on Sunday against Cal in front of their home crowd. The question lies on whether the Bears can do the same.