Cal field hockey to face two nationally-ranked giants

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Lianne Frick/File

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Following a three-year hiatus which saw the Cal field hockey (0-2) team bounce from location to location and playing on shabby grounds, the program has finally found a suitable long-term home for the future which comes in Underhill Field, whose renovations have finally been completed.

While the search for the physical location has come to a conclusion, the Bears’ newest short-term goal comes in the form of establishing a home-field advantage, as the team has yet to notch the illustrious first win in the new version of their old stomping grounds. Against a pair of ranked opponents this upcoming weekend, Cal’s quest to put a number in the win column won’t be easy regardless of location.

The first couple days of September will bring with them match-ups against the cream of the crop in No. 22 Massachusetts (2-0) and No. 17 Iowa (0-2). These matches against two field hockey giants come on the heels of the season opener, in which Cal squared off with No. 5 Syracuse in a 2-0 loss.

Massachusetts haven’t wasted time this season in officially establishing themselves as one of the best teams in the nation, and nowhere was that more prevalent than in their 8-3 thrashing of Holy Cross in its first match-up of the season. In a match which devolved from competitive to a laugher, the Minutewomen scored six unanswered goals after trading blows with the Crusaders, five of which came in the second half.

The squad’s second contest of the season didn’t match the offensive fervor of the first; rather, Massachusetts had an opportunity to show off its defensive prowess in its 2-1 win, holding Vermont to three shots in the second half of that match.

A steady presence these past two games in the Minutewomen’s offense has been senior midfielder Sarah Hawkshaw who already has three goals on the season, two of which came against the rout of the Crusaders. Having already fired seven shots on goal heading into Friday, Hawkshaw hasn’t had trouble putting pressure on opposing defenses.

Iowa has yet to record its first win of the season and with a Friday duel on deck against No. 13 Stanford, there’s a legitimate possibility the program enters Sunday with a zero in the loss column, but context matters.

The Hawkeye’s first two matches of the season came against No. 15 Wake Forest and No. 1 North Carolina, and with Stanford on deck, Iowa hasn’t had the opportunity to work out early-season kinks in its game, an opportunity which Massachusetts had evidenced by both Holy Cross and Vermont being unranked.

Through two games, all of Iowa’s offense has been generated by sophomore midfielder Katie Birch, who scored both in her season opener against Wake Forest. Coming off a Big Ten Freshman of the Year campaign in 2016, the Hawkeyes will look to its budding star for offense on the West Coast.

Cal and Iowa have a bit of history with one another, but it has mostly been a story of dominance by the latter party. The Hawkeyes have bested the Bears in 10 of 11 matches, with Cal’s only win coming way back in 2002. The last meeting between the two came in 2009, a 3-2 affair in Iowa’s favor.

A win against these two quality opponents won’t come easy, but being able to lay claim to taking down one of the titans of field hockey would be more than enough to officially make Underhill Field a home for good.

Justice delos Santos is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jdelossantos510