The stakes have been raised a little higher for the Cal lacrosse team this Wednesday evening.
At 7 p.m., the Bears will travel to Davis, Calif., to play the Aggies in one of their most important MPSF matchups of the season.
Only the top four programs of the eight-team conference will be able to play in the MPSF Tournament at the end of April. And while fourth place Cal (5-5, 2-2 in the MPSF) is in a position to enter the tournament, its spot is certainly not set in stone this early into the season. Because April marks the beginning of the bulk of the MPSF conference matches, the rankings — which have stayed consistent thus far — can change drastically in the next few weeks.
The Bears, who sit in fourth place with three conference games remaining, will need to come out with a victory this Wednesday to maintain their tentative position in the top four.
“Not only do we want to make sure we get into the conference, but we want to put ourselves at the best position possible,” midfielder Emily Abbood said. “Two of our conference matches didn’t go the way we wanted them to go this year, which is why this game is so important for us.”
Earlier this season, the Bears suffered two close conference losses to Oregon and Denver due to their lack of discipline and intensity. In both games, Cal gave up several eight-meter opportunities to its opponent, and its play was largely weighed down by unforced turnovers.
The Bears will have to top their previous conference play and go beyond it, as the Aggies (5-5, 2-0 in the MPSF) are tied for the top spot in the MPSF standings. This season, Aggie attacker Elizabeth Datino has racked up an astounding 65 points and ranks in the top 10 of several NCAA stat categories, including points, assists, and total goals per game.
“The coach told us about her in practice today,” said senior midfielder Vail Horn. “But we’re trying a new thing this year where our focus is on ourselves and not so much the other team, and it’s been working pretty well so far.”
For the past few days, the Bears have been working specifically on their fast breaks and on their defense to counter those of Davis. Cal has been practicing to make sure its opponent does not have the opportunity to encroach on its eight-meter arc.
“Our main focus for this game is to get the ground balls and cause as many turnovers as possible,” Abbood said. “We also need to work on getting our defense back in time so they can’t get that goal off, because that seems to be what Davis is really good at.”
For seniors, this game against UC Davis is not only one of their most important conference matches of the season.
“It’s basically our last game against them,” Abbood said. “We’ve always had a pretty good rivalry with the Aggies, so we’re really excited for Wednesday.”