On Thursday, Stanford will host the MPSF Tournament for women’s lacrosse. The top six teams in the league, including nationally ranked No. 4 USC and No. 8 Stanford, will compete for the conference title. The Cal women’s lacrosse team (4-12, 2-7 MPSF), however, will not be there.
The Bears played their last game of the season Wednesday against Saint Mary’s, which they dominated to secure their first road win. While the victory was long awaited and satisfying, it came too late to deliver Cal the record it needed for postseason play. The eight-game losing streak that characterized the last stretch of the Bears’ season decimated any chance they had at entering the championship.
Cal’s future seemed promising at the start of the season. In its first game, against No. 14 Ohio State, it played competitively and aggressively, ending regulation tied and on a roll. Though they ultimately lost in sudden-death overtime, the Bears’ ability to keep up with their opponent seemed to indicate subsequent successes.
The team was unable to garner a win in its next couple of games, but these losses appeared easy to explain — they were the first away games of the season, in unfamiliar weather conditions, and the second game was against a top team, No. 9 Notre Dame. The Bears knew going into the season that they would have a difficult and demanding schedule with games against teams that were going to be hard to beat. In fact, they had the second-toughest schedule of the 10 MPSF teams and the 38th in the nation.
“We picked playing the best teams in the country for a reason,” said Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks. “It shows us what we need to do to be one of those teams. And as hard as it is in the moment, I think it is going to be better for us in the future.”
The Bears won three of their next four games with their only loss to then- and still-undefeated No. 4 USC. They then had a split conference record, 1-1, and nine games left, seven of which were against other MPSF teams. The coaching staff were still optimistic that the team would show progress and make it to the postseason.
Very quickly, however, the team’s fundamentals began to fall apart. Neither its catching nor its throwing was particularly clean, and the Bears struggled to score goals. Their opponents began to outshoot them by significant margins. Cal failed to win any of its next eight games.
“Consistency was lacking,” Eubanks said. “I think we had moments of brilliance, of how well the team could play. And then we had other moments where unfortunately, we couldn’t get out of a downward spiral within games.”
For the coaching staff, the inconsistency seemed to stem from the team’s youth and its lack of experience, which it has since gained. The Bears’ starting goalie Jenny Wilkens, for example, was a freshman.
Despite this inexperience, however, Wilkens demonstrated her potential and that she will be a very valuable player for years to come. For much of the season, she had no fewer than eight saves per game, and she had a high of 20 in a 10-9 win against San Diego State.
As she and the other young players turn a year older, Cal hopes to see a lot of improvement.
“A year does make a big difference,” Eubanks said.
Sarah Goldzweig covers lacrosse. Contact her at [email protected]