The last time the Cal women’s soccer team advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament was in 2005, a time when former coach Kevin Boyd still managed the team and forward Liz Eisenberg led the team with 11 goals.
Six years have passed since, and a new leaf under coach Neil McGuire has been long turned over. In all his four years as the Bears’ coach, McGuire has still yet to take his team to the Sweet Sixteen.
But for McGuire, fifth time just might be the charm. Playing in Laird Q.Cagan Stadium at Stanford, Ca., Cal (12-6-3, 5-4-2 in the Pac-12)faces off against No. 21 Boston College on Friday 4:30 p.m.
Despite playing on their rival’s grounds, the Bears feel at home continuing their postseason journey within the Bay Area. Since Stanford is within driving distance from Berkeley, the squad is maintaining a normal practice schedule, as if they were playing another regular season match.
“We can keep our usual Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practice times,” McGuire said. “Like last week, the players will feel comfortable heading into the match.”
On the flip side, the Eagles (12-5-2) are flying 3000 miles, crossing the country for Friday’s showdown. Playing at a faraway venue in an unacquainted climate and time zone, Boston College would have to battle the elements in addition to Cal players.
But Boston College is still, on paper, a better team than Cal. A year ago, the Eagles were the Cinderellas of the NCAA tournament, making it to the Final Four before losing to Stanford. With key players like forward Victoria DiMartino and All-American midfielder Kristen Mewis spearheading the program, the Eagles look to continue their momentum from the NCAAs and soar into this season.
Boston College was unable to meet their high preseason expectations, having a horrendous month of October when it lost five of eight contests. The Eagles’ slump is largely in part to the huge decline of production by DiMartino and Mewis, with the former scoring only four goals in contrast to 14 last year.
But Boston College showed some life last week, pummeling six goals on Marist in the first round of the competition, perhaps a timely turnaround in their slumping season.
The Bears also showed some life of its own in the thrilling match against No.11 Santa Clara last Saturday. The match was a morale booster for a squad who, like Boston College, have not performed as well in the past few weeks.
“Personally, the match was like a championship match because of the excitement in (it),” forward Lauren Battung said. “We feel energized heading into this weekend.”
But there is still much work to be done in preparation for Friday’s match. Poor offensive execution is still a main problem, evident when the Bears only scored 1 goal out of 17 shots against Santa Clara.
Against a roster that allowed only 13 goals the entire season, Cal has a daunting task to make the most out of the opportunities that will come its way on Friday.