Some weekends are harder than others.
For the Cal lacrosse team, this weekend is hard. Its two away games will be an important test of how far it has come since last season.
Coming off of their sudden-death overtime loss at home last Friday to No. 18 Ohio State (2-1), the unranked Bears (0-1) will face a even more highly ranked team, No. 6 Notre Dame (3-0), on Sunday. Before the team can even begin to focus on that difficult game in which their athleticism and skill will be tested, they must first dedicate their energy to preparing for their first away game of the season this Friday against Marquette (0-3) in Milwaukee, Wis.
In preparation for this weekend, Cal has been working to correct the mistakes it made in its last game. Specifically, the Bears have worked to perfect their offense so that they can put more points on the board and not get caught playing catch up, as they were last week and for much of the 2015 season.
“We had trouble slowing the fast break last week so we have focused a lot on that,” said Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks in an email. “We also need to continue working on the draw and consistently gaining possession.”
The Golden Eagles have lost each of the three games they have played this season, all of which have been away and two of which were against top ranked teams, now-No. 15 Johns Hopkins (3-0) and now-No. 13 Louisville (3-0). Regardless, Cal will need to bring its A game in order to come away with a win.
On paper, Cal’s other game appears even more difficult. The season has just started and the Fighting Irish have already demonstrated that they are not to be reckoned with. They have won all of their games by significant margins, and in two of them, completely massacred their opponents with score differentials of 10 or more. The team has strong players in every position; its offense has proven that it has the speed and stick skills to dominate the scoreboard, while its defense has shown that it can pressure the players it is guarding and keep them from going to goal.
Although one team is very highly ranked and the other is not, Eubanks does not feel the standings should have any bearing on how her team approaches its opponents.
“This early in the season, rankings come and go,” she said in her email. “Both teams we face this weekend are very good teams and we need to be prepared for that.”
In both games Cal must have an aggressive offense and an unyielding defense. It must capitalize on all opportunities it has to score and must make sure that it does not provide its opponents with any opportunities to shoot on goal. The team will have to play a well-rounded game and all players will need to back each other up.
As for her team’s performance this weekend, Eubanks has high standards.
“I expect nothing but the best,” she said in her email.
Sarah Goldzweig covers lacrosse. Contact her at [email protected]