The Cal women’s soccer team may be favored heading into its first conference game of the season, but the opposing Arizona squad will not likely fall without a fight.
The matchup between the Bears and the Wildcats will kick off Friday at 2 p.m. at Edwards Stadium. Cal (6-2) enters the game riding a four-game winning streak and is in its third week holding the No. 15 spot in the national rankings.
“There is no doubt that it breeds confidence when the team is winning,” Cal coach Neil McGuire said.
The Wildcats’ only game against a ranked team resulted in a 2-1 loss to No. 10 Pepperdine on Sept. 7.
Arizona (4-3-1) may not factor into national rankings, but the squad has been making waves of its own.
Though the Wildcats have recorded three losses on the season so far, none of those losses was by more than one goal.
That fighting spirit was also prevalent in the team’s most recent win against Loyola Marymount. The two squads battled through two overtime periods to end in a 0-0 stalemate.
“Arizona is a strong team,” McGuire said. “The team is well coached.”
Arizona’s head coach Lisa Oyen has been with the program for eight years — three as head coach — and knows the team well.
The Wildcats may also have a wildcard in junior Jazmin Ponce, who leads the Pac-12 with 37 shots. In the game against Loyola Marymount, Ponce led her team with six shots.
The Bears will look to counter with their own offensive arsenal.
Cal’s Betsy Hassett has asserted herself as a clear leader on the attack. She currently paces the team with four assists and four goals. The midfielder also scored the game-winning goal in the Bears’ most recent victory over Penn.
The Bears are no one-trick pony, however, as Cal’s offensive depth has become clear through the season’s progression. Hassett is tied for most shots on the squad with junior Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick. Both have recorded 20 shots apiece. She is also matched in goals scored by sophomore Grace Leer.
Eleven Bears have scored goals this season, and they are outshooting their opponents 141-71.They hope that factors such as these will tip the scales in their favor as they enter all-important conference play.
Another advantage heading into Friday afternoon’s game may be the home turf. Though Cal’s only losses have come in front of home crowds, the last two home games have resulted in shutout wins for the Bears.
Between that and a four-game winning streak, the Bears are hoping their forward trajectory will continue through the Arizona matchup and carry them farther into conference play.
This weekend marks the official shift between pre-conference and conference play. After facing Arizona in the first conference matchup Friday afternoon, the Bears have one more nonconference game against Nevada on Sunday, September 23rd at Mackay Stadium in Reno.
Taylor Brink covers women’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]
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