Cal lacrosse takes on Stanford with losing streak on its mind

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Bears tend to thrive in the forest, but the twisted thicket that is the Stanford Tree has been a nightmare for Cal lacrosse. Since the turn of the millenium, the Bears have never escaped The Farm with a victory.

On Saturday, Cal (4-4) will meet No. 19 Stanford (4-3) in Cardinal territory for its third conference game of the season and second straight matchup against a top-25 opponent.

Stanford has also faced its fair share of ranked opponents this season, crushing then-No. 16 Duke, 15-5, but falling to then-No. 2 Stony Brook and then-No. 19 Colorado.

The Cardinal lead the Pac-12 with a whopping 15.14 goals a game while shooting 34.57 shots per game. Their defense is allowing a modest 11.3 goals per game, but it allows a conference-high 25 shots on goal per game.

Cal plays a slower-paced game, averaging about 10.12 goals a game on 26 shots, both of which are conference lows. Most notable about the Bears scoring attack is its diversity.

“Our offense does a pretty good job of working with everyone that we have. Everyone on the attack is really talented,” said redshirt freshman midfielder Lauren Hickman. “We’ve been working on moving the ball more and getting the ball around the eight and moving it into the middle.”

On the other side of the ball, Cal’s defense holds teams to 10.01 goals a match — the second best in the Pac-12 — on 19.50 shots on goal per game.

Defenders senior Meredith Haggerty and redshirt senior Elizabeth Koehler bring leadership to the unit and are the top two on the team in ground ball pickups, excluding the goalie. Don’t be surprised to see Haggerty materializing out of nowhere to collect a loose ball or Koehler energizing her team in the huddle.

In its first taste of conference play, Cal fell to Oregon and Colorado on the road, 12-7 and 15-5, respectively.

During the same period, Stanford made a similar trip. The Cardinal fared better, drowning the Ducks with a 19-goal effort. In Colorado, Stanford choked up a 12-6 halftime lead, losing, 16-18.

Stanford’s fifth-year attacker Kelsey Murray leads the Pac-12 in assists per game and holds the school record for career assists. She also set the school record for career goals scored this season and managed a monstrous 5-goal, 5-assist game earlier in the year.

One of the biggest benefactors of Murray’s assists, true freshman attacker Ali Baiocco has a team-high 20 goals on the season. The young star has especially found her stride of late, notching five goals against Oregon.

Though the Bears never need extra motivation to beat their historic rival, after dropping their first two conference games, they desire nothing more strongly than to snap their losing streak against coach Brooke Eubanks’ former team.

Armen Aprahamian covers lacrosse. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @armnhammer_.