Conference tournament on the line as Bears host Bulldogs in crucial match

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For the Bears to make the MPSF Tournament, they might need a victory over Fresno State on Tuesday.

At 1 p.m., the Cal lacrosse team will host the Bulldogs at Witter Field for one of its last home games of the season — and its second-to-last conference match. The next day, the Bears (6-5, 3-2 in the MPSF) fly to the East Coast to take on nonconference opponents Vermont and Boston College on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

Although its week is jam-packed with games every other day, Cal is looking to focus primarily on the initial contest, a crucial conference match against the Bulldogs.

“It’s hard not to think of the entire week as a whole, because we do have three games in five days,” said junior attacker Melissa Humphrey. “That’s daunting to a lot of athletes, but we take every opponent so seriously that we can’t start thinking about our Thursday game just yet.”

Only the top four programs of the eight-team conference will be able to play in the MPSF Tournament, whose champion is awarded a berth to the 16-team NCAA Tournament.

After coming off a crucial win against Davis last Wednesday, the Bears seem to have finally found a rhythm, bumping up their fourth-place position in the MPSF to third. Because Cal has plateaued in its spot behind Oregon and Denver, the Bears hope to preserve their momentum and simply maintain their third-place spot in the rankings.

“Our team is finally feeling it; we’re really hitting our rhythm, and I don’t think we really need to do anything special,” Humphrey said. “We just have to continue backing each other up and working the full 60 minutes.”

The Bears have been consistently working on dominating ball possessions, especially those towards the end of the second half. The team understands that if it can dominate in ground balls and draw controls, its offense has more opportunities to make shots and ultimately score goals even in the last few minutes of the game.

“We want to control the final possessions, win the draws, get the ball back and basically make sure we possess the ball more than the other team,” said coach Ginger Miles. “If we have the ball in our hands more often than the other team, we’ll feel really good about our chances of winning.”

The Bulldogs (2-7, 0-2 in the MPSF) appear to be weaker competition for the Bears as they are tied with St. Mary’s at seventh in the MPSF conference. However, the Bears hope to come out with the same intensity as in other MPSF matches because if they brush the game off, they could potentially lose their spot in the conference. Cal does not want to depend on winning its final conference game against Stanford, which topped the 2012 Women’s Lacrosse Coaches’ Poll earlier this season.

“We have to make sure that not only do we get into the MPSF Tournament, but we position ourselves well,” Miles said. “We’ve got reason to believe we can go all the way — we just have to ensure that we do whatever it takes to get that far.”