Arguably the best therapy for a difficult stretch is a return to home base. This weekend, Cal lacrosse retreats back to Berkeley after a painful set of road games to host No. 12 USC on Friday and Arizona State on Sunday.
Unlike the Bears, the Trojans (5-3) are playing as well as they have all season long. Over the weekend, USC knocked out both No. 15 Colorado and Oregon with a pair of overtime wins. The Trojans are now winners of three games straight, and they lead the Pac-12 with their 3-0 start in conference play.
As a result, USC took both the Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week awards for its weekend wins.
Sophomore midfielder Kerrigan Miller, who took the offensive accolade, is most notable for her all-around play. Miller is no stranger to recognition in lacrosse, as she was the No. 1-ranked recruit of her class. The sophomore also played for the American U-19 team, which won the silver medal in the 2015 FIL Women’s World Cup.
Miller plays an integral role at USC; she leads the Trojans in goals scored, points and forced turnovers. The sophomore plays well beyond her years and has caused problems for nearly every team USC has faced.
As a whole, the Trojans biggest strengths are their stellar defense and their ability to protect the ball. Per contest, USC has committed the least amount of turnovers, allowed the least number of goals and has caused the most turnovers in the Pac-12.
“For USC specifically we are focusing — they are a very high-pressure team — … on trying to get ready for the pressure,” said senior defender Meredith Haggerty.
Despite being on opposite ends of the Pac-12 standings, USC and Cal have very similar offensive stats. The teams currently slot in at the bottom two spots in goals, assists, points, shots and shots on goal — a testament to their slower style of play.
While USC has ensconced itself at the top of the Pac-12 so far, the Bears have put together a forgettable conference resume. After stringing together a 4-2 nonconference record, Cal has dropped its first three conference games, all of which haven’t been very close. The Bears lost to Oregon by 5, Colorado by 10 and Stanford by 16.
All of the Bears conference games, however, have been played away from Berkeley while the Trojans’ last three contests have been at home.
Currently in its first year as a program, Arizona State (5-5) has also lost its first three conference games. The Sun Devils were not competitive against USC, Oregon and Colorado, losing by an average margin of 11.67 goals. In losing a nonconference clash with Liberty on Tuesday, Arizona State extended its overall losing streak to four games.
Though Cal and ASU have both lost to common conference opponents in ugly fashion, the Bears have put on relatively more respectable efforts.
Unlike the Trojans, the Sun Devils cough up the most turnovers in the conference and their defense surrenders the most goals per game. The Bears desperately need to beat ASU in order to avoid the bottom of the conference standings.
At the very least, Cal will enjoy playing in the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium. Perhaps the home field will help the Bears break out of their losing streak and record their first Pac-12 wins.