Cal to face same opponent twice in one weekend

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Weekends like this don’t come often: The Cal field hockey team will play two games this weekend against one foe.

Cal will aim for its first conference win in two matchups against Pacific. The Bears (4-7, 0-2 in the NorPac) will host Pacific (4-9, 0-2) Friday at 7 p.m. at Maxwell Family Field before travelling to Stockton to play on the Tigers’ turf Sunday afternoon.

The unique instance of playing the same team twice may be an advantage for the Bears. Cal will have two games to adapt to the Tigers’ style of play.

The Bears won’t know Pacific’s strengths firsthand going into the Friday game, but by Sunday, Cal should be able to play off the Tigers’ weaknesses.

“You’ll get a feel for them in the first game and see what you can exploit in the second game,” said senior forward Claire Dougherty.

The ability to make adjustments is important for the Bears. With a losing record, Cal changed the structure of its midfield last week and began using key defenders in the midfield to maximize the offense.

Integral defenders like captain Laura Spellman and Deanna Kennedy spent the last two games against Robert Morris and Penn State in the midfield to battle Cal’s lacking offense.

“They have very good ball possession skills,” said coach Shellie Onstead. “If you put them up further, you’re taking something away from defense. But if you leave them at defense, maybe you’re taking something from (the offense).”

The new tactic will stay the same this weekend. But this is a huge gamble for the defense as evidenced in the 6-2 blowout against No. 7 Penn State. The bolstered offense came at the cost of a thin defense.

“We’re trying to find a happy medium to keep the ball in our possession,” Onstead said. “I actually think our defense is pretty solid.”

The Tigers have had some big wins including a 3-2 upset of No. 22 Michigan State on Oct. 1, but the team’s most recent loss to No. 14 Stanford detracted from any momentum the Tigers had.

The Tigers held off the Cardinal for a scoreless first period, but their defense fell apart in the second half, leading to Pacific’s 4-1 loss.

“They’re going to be a little bit angry over the Stanford loss, so no matter what you can’t take them lightly,” Onstead said.

The Tigers, however, do have a problem creating opportunities. Losses have primarily been the result of failing to capitalize on shots and create the necessary number of shots. Pacific had six shots to the Cardinal’s 22 in its last game.

For the Bears to have a successful weekend, Cal needs to exploit Pacific’s weak offense with aggressive possession of the ball. If the Bears can be aggressive in attacking the Tigers, Cal has a good opportunity to win its first conference game in this two-game weekend.

“We’re really just focusing on solving some issues as we head toward the conference tournament, which is really our biggest issue right now,” Onstead said.

Jessica Lim covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected]