Fans of the television show “The Office” can tell you that it once asked, in mockingly scientific tone, “What kind of bear is best?” In the show, it is claimed that the answer is debatable and that there are a few schools of thought — but in the mind of Cal lacrosse, the answer is clear.
This Sunday, the California Golden Bears and the Bears of Mercer University will each pitch their stance on the matter out on California Memorial Stadium — for the first time in program history, no less.
Mercer posted a strong season in 2017, tallying a 13-6 season and reaching the ASUN conference semifinal. The team’s secret weapon last season came in the form of 5’5” now-senior Kate Leone.
Throughout the season, Leone’s fifty-six goals at 75 percent shot-on-goal accuracy made defenders look silly week after week. The Bears will likely key in on her defensively, hoping to force other players to carry the scoring burden.
This season, Mercer dropped their home opener 14-7 to Liberty in Macon, Georgia. Mercer’s inability to win faceoffs (at a losing rate of 17-6) became the storyline of the contest. If Cal also tramples Mercer in the draw control category, the match in Berkeley could quickly become tough sledding for Mercer.
In other news, Mercer’s senior goalkeeper Haleigh Wurzel missed the majority of the team’s season opener after suffering an early injury. In her place, freshman Iseabal Cryne has guarded the net and can be expected to perform at a bit of a lower clip than the veteran.
Meanwhile, the Bears from the West Coast have started their season 1-1. After besting UC Davis, Cal came home to face San Diego State, who beat the blue and gold by 1 point on a last-chance goal.
Win or lose, Cal’s identity has begun to come into shape in these first two games.
The emergence of redshirt sophomore Eliza Christman has been a pleasant new development offensively for the Bears. She’s already matched her season goal total of last year in this season’s two games.
Oppositely, sophomore Susie Ropp, Cal’s leading returner in scoring, has started her season relatively quietly. She’s only taken four shots total and has been unable to convert thus far. The Berkeley faithful would love to see her performance match the lofty heights it reached in 2017.
Let it be known that when these teams meet for the first time in the programs’ history on Sunday, they will each be fighting with the extra motivation of representing their respective coasts.
Most observers will tell you that lacrosse is an East Coast game, considering its roots as a Native American sport there. But Cal would like to dispute that claim.
With roughly half of its squad hailing from the East Coast, there will be plenty of personal emotion focused on showing Mercer that the West Coast brand of lacrosse beats out the old-fashioned Atlantic style any day.
There will be plenty of focus on letting Mercer know which kind of bear is best – the Golden Bear.