Cal searching for elusive first Pac-12 win against Stanford

One year ago, the Cal men’s soccer team faced Stanford in the regular-season finale to win the rivalry match and subsequently take first place in the Pac-10.

On Friday at 2 p.m., the Bears are up against the Cardinal again in the final game of the season. But the stakes aren’t quite as high.

Cal (3-8-5, 0-6-3 in the Pac 12) currently stands dead last in the league with no wins, the only team that has yet to win a game.

Stanford (5-10-2, 2-6-1) isn’t fairing much better. The Cardinal are in fifth place out of six teams and are coming into the match with two wins. The squad has had six losses in the conference – the same as the Bears.

Based on those stats, the Bay Area rivalry at Edwards Stadium on Veteran’s Day should prove to be a tight encounter. Last time, the two teams met on Oct. 9, in Stanford, Calif., and drew 1-1 after double overtime.

“Ending the season at home and against Stanford is really exciting,” junior co-captain Steven Birnbaum said. “The moment is now and we want to perform — this is really our last chance.”

Freshmen Seth Casiple has been a rare light in his side’s dull performances as of late. The rookie midfielder scored his first collegiate goal in a 1-1 double overtime tie with San Diego State last weekend. He leads the Bears with six assists, good enough for fourth place ranking in the Pac-12 standings.

As for the Bears’ starting goalkeeper, that decision has been one full of controversy for coach Kevin Grimes. Last weekend’s fixture against the Aztecs saw redshirt freshmen Kevin Peach replace redshirt sophomore Robby Gogatz after the first half. Peach played the remainder of the match and overtime, upping his save percentage to .854 and his saves per game to 5.83. Those numbers rank him first place in the Pac-12.

“I’m glad that I get to see the field and I’m working as hard as I can when I’m out there,” Peach said. “It’s all about the team though, I just want to help us get a positive result.”

Stanford’s meeting with San Diego State last weekend went a little differently as the Cardinal put in a resounding four goals against the Aztecs as the game finished 4-1. Their matchup with undefeated UCLA that same weekend was a 3-0 loss, allowing one more goal than Cal did.

It seems as though the inexperience of the majority is seeping through to the rest of the players. The team will have to dig deep to find some motivation and team spirit to get its first conference win of the season.

With the NCAA’s Championship selection show looming, the Bears don’t have realistic hopes of making another postseason run — or reaching the postseason.

“It’s disappointing that we aren’t in a similar situation as we were in last time around, but we are playing for ourselves.”