Following a disheartening weekend, the Cal field hockey (7-5) team hopes to restore its confidence in time for its next matchup against its conference opponent Pacific (4-7). This will be the second time the Bears meet the Tigers this season, the first ending in a 4-1 Cal win.
Cal will play the sixth and final game of its extended road trip in Stockton after having four of its past five road games in Ohio and Connecticut. The Bears are 5-2 while playing away from home this season, their only losses stemming from two narrow deficits against ranked No. 6 Penn State and No. 23 Ohio State this past weekend. Cal should be more than able to continue its trend of playing comfortably while visiting and defeat Pacific this Friday.
“We’re excited, we’re motivated,” said Cal head coach Shellie Onstead. “We are disappointed with the results from last weekend, but I think we all understand that we did improve through those two games, so now it’s just about looking ahead and applying that.”
Although Cal has already beat Pacific this season, it shouldn’t expect the Tigers to play nice. After losing once, the Bears should expect the Tigers to be hungry for revenge.
Should Cal hope to scathe a Pacific team looking for its first in-conference win, it will have to maintain an energy that has noticeably fluctuated. Cal has often been the first to strike in its matches this season, but in some instances, it has failed to contain its lead, most notably when it blew a 2-0 lead against Ohio State, allowing 2 goals in a four-minute span before losing 3-2.
“We’ve gotten better in terms of our defensive play and smarter with our sub rotations,” Onstead said. “I think we’re the better team, we played them last time, but regardless, I think it’s going to to be a tough matchup.”
Cal will also have to keep Pacific’s offense, which averages 2.5 goals per game, in mind ahead of Friday’s game. The Tigers have managed to tally 13.9 shots per game and have accumulated 28 goals in 11 games. Their top scorer, junior Kriekie van Wyk, leads the team at 9 goals in the season, and senior Emma Leach leads the pack with eight assists this season.
It’s difficult to tell where the Bears stand in regard to talent. Looking back to the onset of Cal’s season, the team struggled and experienced a few losses at home, leaving it with a pessimistic record of 1-3. Soon after, it seemed as if the Bears had experienced an epiphany and reincarnated as a brand-new team. They powered through their opponents and were on a six-game win streak when suddenly, Cal was brought back to reality after earning two losses against Penn State and Ohio State.
“We addressed the fact that we scored fewer goals over the weekend, and we want to make sure we have that (improved) firepower going into this game,” Onstead said. “I think the fact that (this rematch against Pacific) is on the road will make it a completely different game.”
This weekend’s game against Pacific may give the Bears a push in the right direction if they come home victorious. Losing two in a row can have an effect on the team’s morale, but earning a win against a conference opponent and being 3-0 in the American East Conference can surely boost its confidence once again.
Jesus Aceves covers field hockey. Contact him at [email protected]