After a hot 6-1 start this season, Cal women’s soccer team began to turn some heads across collegiate soccer. This week, the Bears were rewarded with a spot in the top-25 ranking — currently No. 22 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America rankings — for the first time since last October.
But for coach Neil McGuire’s squad, these national rankings are no more than mere numbers.
“It’s nice for the players to hear that they are being respected nationally,” McGuire said. “But it’s hard to predict because rankings are based on how every other team is doing. There are many very good teams across the nation vying for the same rankings.”
After a tight 2-0 win over Long Beach State at Long Beach, Calif., Cal is expected to have an easier challenge this weekend. On Sunday at 1 p.m., the Bears will travel across the bay to battle against San Francisco at Negoesco Stadium.
After a 7-7-5 record in 2009 under fourth-year coach Mark Carr, the Dons have struggled to maintain their .500 record and finished with a dismal 5-13-2 record in 2010. San Francisco looks to be mirroring their last year’s performance, currently in last place of the WCC with a 2-5 record.
Cal had the opportunity to see its opponents earlier this season. The Dons were also one of the four teams that participated in the Cal Invitational two weeks ago. After losing to Denver 3-1 in the first match of the tournament, San Francisco rebounded back with a 4-1 victory over Ken State.
“They have the potential to be really dangerous, especially at their home,” McGuire said. “They are well-coached, disciplined, and effective at the counter attacks.”
In spite of their terrible record last season, the Dons have kept up with the Bears when they last played against each other last September. Although San Francisco had no goal opportunities in the entire match, their defense held the team to a scoreless first half. Cal scored the only goal of the match when striker Alex Morgan scored a penalty after a Don hit the ball with her hand inside the penalty box.
Evident in last year’s match against the Bears, the Dons had problems putting the ball at the back of the net last season. Scoring a paltry amount of 17 goals in 20 matches, San Francisco focused on recruiting offensive players.
And so far this season, it seems the Dons have found their answers. Taking the reins of an offense whose leading scorer last season scored three goals, freshman Mackenzie Krieser already matched that goal tally seven games into the season.
Although San Francisco has seen improvement in its attack, it pales in comparison to Cal’s. Spearheaded by forward Katie Benz who scored nine goals this season, the Bears have three players that already have more than three goals.
“They have players that can shoot from pretty deep and we’ll be aware of that,” goalkeeper Emily Kruger said. “They play a direct attacking style. But our ability to hold onto the ball should make it hard for them to play their way.”