This Sunday, the Cal women’s lacrosse team (0-1) faces one of its most challenging games of the season. Trying to rebound from a loss to Denver (3-0) last Friday, the Bears play the Oregon Ducks (2-1) — this is as early as a must-win game comes in a season.
This game is especially significant because it is Cal’s first away game, its first conference game and its first attempt to distinguish itself from its past few losing seasons.
Recently, the Bears have had luck with neither away games nor conference games. In both the 2016 season and the 2015 season, Cal won only two out of nine conference matches. This record has meant not qualifying for the MPSF tournament since 2013.
Similarly, the Bears have only won one away game in each of the past two seasons. They were able to beat St. Mary’s in their last game of the season in 2016, and they overcame George Washington in Washington, D.C. in 2015.
To add to that pressure, Cal seems to be following a very particular pattern, losing its first game of the season and finishing ninth in the conference. Any chance it has to break out of that spiral is an opportunity it has to take.
Trying to learn from their mistakes, the Bears have been watching film of their first game and working hard on the field.
“The last couple of days in practice, we have been working on our quick ball movement and being more of a threat on the offensive end,” said Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks.
Oregon has had a complete change in coaching staff, which makes it hard for Cal to predict what its opponent’s style of play will be. In order to prepare for the game, Eubanks has had the team watching plenty of film. It watched Oregon play its first conference game against San Diego State, where Oregon won 11-9.
“We watched San Diego State play Denver as well, so it really helps give us perspective,” Eubanks said. “We can see that Oregon plays really team-oriented defense and have a couple of threats on the offensive end, so we definitely need to make sure that we are ready to bring our A-game.”
A few starters in the game against Denver really stepped up, but Eubanks has stated that she will not assign permanent starters in order to keep the team as competitive as possible.
“Our defensive side of the ball played really well,” Eubanks said. “They’re veterans, they’re upperclassmen with a sophomore in goal and they really just played well on that side of the ball.”
The Ducks are hosting Cal after losing to Canisius 11-15 and are looking to extend their conference record to 2-0. In their first three games, they have shown that multiple players are capable of scoring on offense and that their defense is extremely aggressive. Oregon is tied for 10th in the nation and third in the conference with 14 caused turnovers per game, and its senior goalie Becca Katzen was named MPSF player of the week Feb. 6.
The last time the Bears beat Oregon was in 2013, when Cal won 14-10 at Oregon, so this game would be an important win for the Bears. 2013 was also the last year that they qualified for the conference tournament, so maybe a win over Oregon would signal a return to glory.
Sophie Durham covers lacrosse. Contact her at