Bears look to kennel Huskies, climb rankings after weekend play

Cal field hockey coach Shellie Onstead knows that earning the respect of her peers in the NCAA this season is going to be a tough task.

After starting the season just outside the top-20, the Bears (3-0) are still on the outside looking in despite two upset wins over No. 16 Louisville and No. 13 Michigan State and a dominating conference victory later the following week.

“I was disappointed, but sometimes you have to earn a little respect and once they start noticing you, you have a better chance,” Onstead said. “For now, we’ll just keep taking care of business.”

While the Bears do see themselves deserving of top-20 recognition, they are still able to keep their season and their current performance in a proper perspective.

“I think we have to be careful about considering ourselves that great after just three wins,” the longtime coach said. “The players are self-motivated so for me I just want them to play good hockey and things will take care of themselves. We know where we stand so we’ll go and earn it.”

This Friday at 6:00 p.m., Cal will once again hope to prove that it is a legitimate national contender, as the Bears face No. 18 Northeastern in their home opener at Maxwell Family Field.

Like Cal, the Huskies (4-0) started the season outside the top 20 but jumped into the national spotlight after a string of impressive victories — including a convincing 5-0 win against Michigan State.

“We play them every couple of years so I am fairly familiar with them,” Onstead said. “They’re always a solid, well-structured team with good skills.”

The Bears’ last matchup with Northeastern occurred during the 2009 season, a 2-3 overtime loss here in Berkeley.

Both these teams are entering this game as one of the hottest teams in the NCAA. In their four matches, the undefeated Huskies have outscored their opponents 15-3, including two shutouts led by junior goalkeeper Lizzie Priest.

Similarly, the Bears come in with a 32-7 scoring advantage and are coming off their most dominating victory this season, a 10-0 shutout of Pacific.

The Bears’ offense has been tremendous so far this season with senior forward Megan Shimojima and sophomore forward Jordan O’Reilly leading the way with four goals each. Both have been awarded NorPac Offensive Player of the Week honors for their performances.

Defensively, senior Maddie Hand has been a consistently strong presence in front of the net, allowing four goals in the three matches while accumulating 12 saves.

Onstead hopes that the Bears can continue their strong play and feed off the home environment en route to another non-conference victory over a ranked opponent.

“It’s always nice to have a home-opener where everyone is really pumped up and we’ll get to have the families around — the players families and the Cal alumni — so it’ll be very exciting,” she said.