Cal lacrosse faces Oregon, Fresno State at home

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It’s an important next couple of days for the Cal women’s lacrosse team.

Excluding those against San Diego State University and No. 7 USC, none of the Bears’ (3-6, 1-1 MPSF) games this season have been conference games. Starting this weekend, however, in home games at Memorial Stadium against Oregon (6-4, 1-2) on Friday evening and Fresno State (3-8,0-5) on Sunday, all this changes. From here on, Cal only plays other MPSF teams.

“There is a lot more on the line now with conference games,” said Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks. “Everyone is competing to get into the MPSF tournament. Every game matters. Everyone is preparing to play their opponents best. The next game is just as important as the one you just played. It is exciting to play against your biggest rivals.”

In practice this week, in preparation for its upcoming games, Cal has focused on addressing the issues it had over spring break in painful losses to Cornell and Temple. The team has focused on making necessary adjustments to both the offense and defense, which it hopes will improve its performance in the upcoming games.

“We’ve been doing a lot of stick protection,” Eubanks said. “We have also been working together as a unit on the defensive end, making sure we back each other up and not letting one person get beat when they are out there by themselves.”

Stick protection is particularly important to preventing turnovers. The Bears have had many in their previous games, and especially in their losses: Against Temple they had 11, against Cornell they had 22 and against USC they had 17. In each of these cases, Cal’s opponents scored significantly more goals and had stronger offenses overall.

Defensive cohesion is also very important to ensuring better results. The Bears have struggled to inhibit their competition from scoring goals as demonstrated by notable score differentials in past losses. If Cal players successfully drop to the girl with the ball and help their teammates prevent a score, the Bears are likely to do better overall and see their success reflected on the board.

This week, the Bears have also focused on altering their game to better address the challenges specific to this weekend’s competition. They have primarily focused on the Ducks because the game is sooner and Eubanks prefers to go match by match when developing her team’s strategy.

“(Oregon) is really going to be a back and forth type of game. Defensively, we need to stop them when they are getting momentum,” Eubanks said. “We can’t just let them score multiple goals. We need to have an answer when they score on us.”

Oregon also presents other challenges for Cal’s offense.

“They are a well-balanced team, they are aggressive and they really like to check and cause turnovers so it is a matter of making sure we are protecting our sticks,” Eubanks said. “They are really well balanced all over the field. We will need to bring our A game.”

The Bears’ second opponent this weekend, the Bulldogs, has lost every conference game it has played thus far. It recently faced San Diego State, which Cal beat earlier this season — both games went into overtime. Fresno State, however, lost. Therefore while Sunday could be promising for Cal, it will still need to play its best to guarantee a win and a better MPSF rank.

Both teams the Bears are playing this weekend have already competed against each other. In their matchup two weeks ago, the Ducks beat the Bulldogs, 15-10. Oregon’s win was likely due to the fact that it got to goal substantially more. It outshot Fresno State 38 to 18. The Ducks also forced more turnovers in their favor, which gave them the ball control that drove their victory.

“We have two really big games this weekend, both MPSF games, and we are fighting to get into the MPSF tournament so obviously every game matters,” Eubanks said. “It is stressful but also fun and exciting.”

Sarah Goldzweig covers lacrosse. Contact her at [email protected]