Cal to battle Gaels in conference opener

With the help of their new coaching staff, the Bears hope to approach their first game of the season with a changed mentality from last year.

This Sunday, the Cal lacrosse team will play its conference opener against St. Mary’s at 1 p.m. The match in Moraga, Calif., will be the first official lacrosse game played on the new turf field located next to St. Mary’s stadium.

In 2011, the Bears easily topped the Gaels with a 14-6 victory in Berkeley. Similarly, when Cal scrimmaged against St. Mary’s at the Stanford Play Day on Feb. 5, it managed to pull through and continue its one-sided string of victories against the Gaels. However, in this season’s matchup, the Bears will be looking to counteract dangerous new additions to St. Mary’s team, as well as strong returners such as attacker Jillian Chong and midfielder Mariah Walk, who both earned All-MPSF second-team honors last year.

“We beat them, but I think it was a little too close for comfort at the end,” junior Melissa Humphrey said. “I do think that compared to years past, they improved tremendously, and so props to them. But we definitely worked really well as a team, and we’re working hard to be ready to go into Sunday.”

During their last week of preseason, the Bears have been putting the finishing touches on their plays and different defensive sets, and they have been working on in-game scenarios — what they would do down a player, or how they would approach scoring a goal with two minutes left in the game.

“I’m very much a planner,” first-year coach Ginger Miles said. “I’m trying to get all our kids prepared for any type of situation that could arise on game day, so when we get out there on Sunday we’re ready for anything.”

Besides practicing to consistently create defensive stops and successfully carry out plays, the Bears have been working on being organized and disciplined not only in their actions but also in their approach towards the game. Cal attributes its new mentality to its leadership in the four senior captains and the new coaching staff, who have only been at Cal for six months but have improved the program tremendously.

“(The new coaches) remind us every single day to give it our all, and they make practice something we look forward to,” junior Amelia Burke said. “It’s so much fun to be a part of this group of people who just push each other to work hard and play hard.”

With the constant encouragement from the new coaching staff, the Bears expect to set a good precedent for the rest of the season with an initial victory against the Gaels.

“We’re excited to see our girls put to use all that they’ve been working on (during the) fall and spring,” Miles said. “They’ve been working really hard, and I think that game day will validate all the time and effort they’ve been putting in. It’s about time we win some games and show these girls the reward for all that hard work.”