Cal lacrosse to start season against Denver

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Timothy Dawson/File

Getting back to the basics.

That’s how Cal lacrosse head coach Brooke Eubanks plan to approach this season. The Bears are hoping to rebound from a 4-12 overall record last season by reinforcing the fundamentals of the game and restoring a larger sense of competition. And just how is that competitive edge going to be forged? Eubanks began their training camp by declaring that all positions are up for grabs.

“I think this keeps them motivated,” Eubanks said. “Knowing that if they are on the field there is always someone behind them, pushing them to be better. Their spot is never safe, they can never get comfortable, and because of this they are always trying to improve.”

The Bears begin their season Friday evening, taking on Denver (1-0) at Memorial Stadium. Denver is coming to Berkeley energized from its first win of the season, a road win against San Diego State. While they are not conference opponents, Cal and Denver have some notable history. Last season Denver beat Cal 16-0, the first time the Pioneers had shutout an opponent in 10 years. Cal’s game was characterized by lost draws, numerous turnovers and a lack of shots.

“We’ve been perfecting our play so that we can focus on us,” said senior captain Sara Nolte.

“And hopefully they will have a hard time stopping us.”

Joining Nolte and senior Caroline Schlegel, who have been captains for two years, is senior Jena Fritts.

“We have an attacker, a midfielder and a defender (as captains) so we have leadership in every position,” Eubanks said. “We have two returning captains with Nolte and Schlegel, so they know how it works and will be able to pass along insight to Jena.”

Leadership seems to be a constant theme this season, especially among the seniors.

“We want to be the example that they can look to,” Nolte said. “So we work hard in the classroom, we work hard on the field, we lift, we run, and we just try to come out with a lot of energy and hope the team feeds off that.”

This season is the first in which the NCAA is adding a 90-second possession clock. The clock will be reset on any shot that is deflected by a goalkeeper, a shot that hits the posts of the goal, a change of possession and when any card has been issued to the team without possession. It will continue to count down to zero if a shot goes wide or high of the goal.

“It’s definitely going to speed things up, so we’ve got to be quicker in our transition,” Eubanks said. “There will potentially be more turnovers, but I’m excited to see how it unfolds.”

Both Nolte and Eubanks agree that among their various statistical goals for the season, a main one is to make it to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament, which they last made in 2013.

With a roster of experienced seniors, Cal is in a strong position to rewrite the underwhelming performances of the past few seasons.

“You don’t get a senior class like this every year, so I definitely want to take advantage of it. They are leaders on and off the field, they care about their teammates as people and as athletes, and I really think they will be able to take us far this year,” Eubanks said.

Sophie Durham covers lacrosse. Contact her at [email protected].