Bears to play toughest game of season in opener

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Unlike most teams, Cal field hockey faces their toughest competitor in the first game of the season.

Cal starts off their 2012 season with a massively high hurdle against No. 1 Maryland this Friday at 5 p.m. on Maxwell Family Field. Cal lucked out by facing its toughest competitor in its first game, setting the tone for the long season ahead.

The last time Cal faced Maryland was in their 2009-2010 season, in which Maryland shut down the Bears with a 8-0 annihilation.

No. 1 Maryland brings with them five out of the past seven NCAA titles. Compared to Maryland, Cal holds no NCAA titles.

Maryland will be entering this opening match coming off a loss against the U.S. U21 National Team, losing 4-3. Despite their loss, the Terrapins still played a close, strong match against the USA team, holding a 2-1 lead at the break. Its No. 1 seat is no hype, Maryland will bring to Cal competition they don’t face from Pac-12 competitors.

The Terrapins’ advantage of strong, fast players, such as co-captains and leading scorers Megan Frazer and Janessa Pope, will bring huge challenges to the Cal defense at this Friday.

Unlike Maryland, Cal ended its 2011 season with an mediocre 10-9 record. But the Bears ended their last season with a No.11 ranking, jumping from an initial unranked position in the preseason poll. Despite their loss at the NCAA play-ins, the Bears still fought hard enough to nab No. 11 by the end of their season.

The Bears recently faced Davis at an exhibition match last week, which Cal won with a final score of 4-2.

Although this adds a win to Cal’s season, the Bears didn’t shut down an easy-to-beat Pac-12 competitor. A win against Davis was expected; scraping out a mere two-point lead was not.

This win wasn’t a blowout, but Cal can rely on a veteran team this 2012 season. The squad returns nine starters, giving the team an advantage in building a hard-hitting force with years of communal experience. The Bears’ roster will consist of six super seniors, including powerhouse defender Deanna Kennedy, who led the team with 12 assists last season.

However, the team frequently exhibited a timid form of play, evidenced both by slim wins against lesser teams than Cal and by coach Shellie Onstead’s laments after the season-ending loss at the NCAA play-in game last season.

Nonetheless, the 2012 Division I preseason poll took notice of Cal’s overall season and awarded the team a No. 16 ranking — the first time Cal made it onto the preseason poll. However, there is still a huge discrepancy between the top three teams in the nation — Maryland, North Carolina and Old Dominion, respectively — and No.16 Cal.

Which brings it back to Friday’s match against the Terrapins, in which Cal’s new ranking will be tested.