No one ever said it was going to be easy.
And head coach Brooke Eubanks is okay with that. On Friday afternoon, the very unranked Cal lacrosse team faces its first opponent, No. 19 Ohio State (1-0), in Memorial Stadium.
“I think it can be a great confidence-boosting game and really a great way to start our season,” Eubanks said. “It’s not like they have film on us; they don’t know who we are and what our strengths and weaknesses are. We need to use that to our advantage.”
The Bears, on the other hand, have been able to use footage from the Buckeyes’ first game last week to develop their strategy and plan of attack. The coaching staff wanted to familiarize its players with the plays they are likely to see. Ohio State slaughtered Detroit last Thursday with 22 goals, including five by sophomore Molly Wood, to Detroit’s eight. The Buckeyes’ success came from their ability to capitalize on their many possessions, translating their almost monopolization of draws into points on the board.
“They are a great team,” Eubanks said. “They are extremely athletic, they’re feisty, aggressive, and they are well balanced all over the field.”
The defenders are going to have to attack this skilled offense by marking their girl. A tough defense will be crucial to preventing the Buckeyes from gaining an irreparable lead and adding another win to their record.
Defense has been emphasized for all players, not just the defenders. The team has been working on cultivating a collective defensive mentality, meaning every player is backing her teammates up, allowing them to take more risks to make bigger plays.
Cal also hopes to match Ohio State’s offensive prowess during its own possessions. In the past week, the team has focused on draws and being aggressive from the start of play. Gaining control of the ball from the beginning will ensure that the team has more chances to shoot and make goals. Eubanks believes that draw control is going to be necessary if the team wants to perform at its top level.
The Bears have also been practicing fast breaks, getting into scoring position and making decisive and assertive plays.
“We want to shoot a lot, make sure that we are attacking the net, we’re going to goal, that we are not playing passive,” Eubanks said. “We want to be aggressive to the net and try to get a lot of points on the board.”
This is something that the Bears struggled with last year. In eight of their 13 losses last season, the point differential was 10 or more goals. But Eubanks is not perseverating the past and is instead focusing on the game ahead.
“We are definitely going to have to dig deep and pull out our best performance,” Eubanks said. “It is going to be a tough game, but I definitely think we can win.”
Sarah Goldzweig covers lacrosse. Contact her at [email protected]