Whereas the Cal field hockey team will return from an off week well-rested and refined, its opponent is recuperating from a tough loss to North Carolina.
After a 12-day break from game play, the Cal field hockey team will take on No. 13 Stanford in its first NorPac conference game of the season this Friday at noon at Maxwell Family Field.
Because of the absences of Onstead and midfielder Shannon Elmitt, who were representing teams USA and Canada, respectively, at the Pan-American Junior Games this past weekend, the Bears will come into Friday’s game with a two week gap from its last game. The Bears’ last game was a 5-2 win against Missouri State Sept. 16 after a close loss to Indiana.
“We’re able to make that a two week training phase, which you don’t typically have in a season, and I actually think we’re a much better team now than we were two weeks ago,” Onstead said. “We’ve been able to address some fitness issues and get everybody healthy and I think it’s a really good point to start playing again.”
The extra time to recharge may prove to be an advantage over Stanford, who also sent players, sophomore Kelsey Harbin and freshman Maddie Secco, to the Games. Both are key players, each scoring a goal for the Cardinal in a 3-2 victory over No. 10 Iowa on Sept. 7. Unlike Cal, Stanford did not take the weekend off, but instead suffered a 6-2 loss to No. 1 North Carolina.
“This will be an interesting game because we’ve all returned players from the Junior Pan American Championship,” Onstead said. “We basically all go full strength again this Friday.”
Entering conference play, the Bears (3-4) hope to redeem their falling ranking and set the tone for a successful regular season.
The Bears began the season at No.16 but fell out of the rankings after losing matches against Northwestern, Drexel and Indiana, all by a one-point deficit. The contests against Drexel and Indiana were also decided in overtime. This is a stark contrast from last season, in which the Bears went 4-0 in overtime contests.
The Bears have struggled to deliver on last season’s stellar performance — one that includes a NorPac championship, a brief run in the NCAA tournament, a No. 11 ranking and a 16-4 record.
The last time the Bears met the Cardinal (6-4) on the field was in last season’s NorPac championship game. Despite losing both regular season contests against Stanford, 3-2, the Bears topped the Cardinal, 1-0, breaking a three-year trend of losing to Stanford in the championship game.
The competitiveness between evenly matched Cal and Stanford is expected to hold true this season, according to Coach Shellie Onstead.
“Usually in season I expect a split,” Onstead said. “I just think we’re very close in terms of skill level and players and coaching. I expect a typical Stanford-Cal match, which will be very close and very high-level, and it will probably end in a one goal difference, with us on top.”
The Bears may have a hard time recovering from a recent drop out of the rankings. The team’s talent in players such as freshman goalkeeper Joelle van Hoorn along with sophomore Lara Kruggel, however, cannot be accurately represented in a number. Drawing on this potential should propel the team back to its former glory.
Despite the added excitement surrounding a rivalry game, Cal is focused on bringing out its best against the Cardinal.
“We treat every game the same and we come out prepared,” forward Lauren Livingston said. “It has more buzz because Cal in general has history with Stanford, but we’re just going to come out and play our game, play it well and show what we’ve worked on in the past few weeks.”
Jessica Lim covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected]