The Cal field hockey team hasn’t had a season record this bad since Shellie Onstead became head coach at Cal in 1994.
The closest the Bears (7-11, 2-4 in NorPac) have gotten to matching Cal’s current dismal record was a decade-worst 8-11 campaign in 2009. But that season, Cal made it all the way to the finals of the NorPac Conference tournament.
Cal won the first round of the tournament and will enter the semifinals on Friday against Stanford. In its first round against Longwood, Cal began the tournament at No. 3 in the West Division because of its weak NorPac record.
In order to have a chance at the NCAA tournament, the Bears must win all three rounds of the NorPac tournament.
“Tournament time is a good time because everybody feels like they have a chance and everybody does,” coach Shellie Onstead said.
Cal defeated No. 2 from the East Division Longwood, 5-1, Thursday night in its first round game. The Bears will continue in a semifinal game against No. 1 in the West Division Stanford on Friday afternoon.
The Bears and the Lancers (7-12, 6-2) were evenly matched for much of the first half. At the 24th minute, Cal made the only goal of the first half with forward Claire Dougherty’s goal off an assist by Rachelle Comeau to take the 1-0 lead.
In the second half, the Bears pulled farther away from the Lancers with four goals. Cal held a brief 5-0 lead before the Lancers were able to retaliate on the 62nd minute for a 5-1 score.
Though the Bears defeated Longwood, there were weaknesses in the defense. In the last 28 minutes, the Lancers fired 12 of its total 19 shots, outshooting the Bears’ 12 shots for the entire game.
The next round against No. 14 Stanford, however, has little room for mistakes.
This semifinal matchup between Cal and Stanford is unusual in the NorPac Conference. The Bears in the past four years faced the Cardinal in the championship round.
“I think it will be a nice change, so it will be nice to get them the second day where there’s not much pressure,” Onstead said before the Longwood game. “I expect to play them, and if it’s the second day instead of the third day, it’s no big deal to me.”
Cal has already lost twice to the Cardinal in the regular season. Last season, the Bears lost twice to Stanford in the regular season but beat the Cardinal in the championship round of the NorPac tournament.
Cal will approach this game as it has in its last two games against Davis and Longwood, in which the Bears defeated them by huge 6-0 and 5-1 deficits respectively. In those games, Cal focused on passing and changed its lineup, moving key players like Comeau from midfield to forward and Deanna Kennedy from defense to midfield.
“I like what we started doing (against Davis) in letting people interchange more and creating more trouble for the defending team,” Onstead said. “There’s a little more creativity in the attack, which should help us get some great opportunities.”
Jessica Lim covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected]