The Cal field hockey team (4-7, 1-2 NorPac) looks to rebound from a three-game losing streak as it awaits the arrival of the Yale Bulldogs this Saturday. The squad will then take a short trip to visit UC Davis as its season begins to wind down.
The Bears return from a harsh road trip on which they lost two in a row to No. 7 North Carolina and No. 8 Duke. These are losses that, while not entirely unexpected, threaten to throw a wrench in team morale. They will now try to turn around their so-far mediocre season and find form ahead of the NorPac Tournament as they look to make some noise in the postseason.
“We are just focusing on getting better each week and putting the North Carolina game behind us,” said coach Shellie Onstead.
On Saturday at 1 p.m., Cal will host a Yale squad (3-6, 1-2 Ivy League) that has struggled thus far despite having a good side on paper. The team has continued an up-and-down season, with losses against powerhouses Princeton and Virginia intertwined with wins vs. bottom-dwellers Harvard and Quinnipiac.
This should be a winnable game for the Bears, but Yale boasts some impressive players who are capable of being dangerous when firing. Senior forward Erica Borgo leads the Ivy League in assists with seven, while teammate senior midfielder Emily Schuckert is just behind her at six. Junior goalkeeper Heather Schlesier has also provided impressive play with a .756 save percentage, putting her third in the Ivy League. This solidity on both ends of the field makes Yale far from being a pushover, but the Bears will be confident of a win if they can play to their full potential in front of the home fans.
“(This will be) a tight match,” Onstead said. “A lot of it is going to come down to the midfielders.”
After their meeting with Yale, the Bears will play another struggling team in the form of UC Davis (3-7, 1-0 NorPac) on Sunday at 3 p.m. The Aggies come into the game fresh off an impressive upset win against the Stanford Cardinal to continue a two-game win streak, yet they still maintain a poor record due to seven-game losing run earlier in the season. The Aggies will hope to build on their last few impressive performances to end the final weeks of the season on a high note before the all-important NorPac Tournament, in which they will fight for an NCAA Tournament berth.
This game will be UC Davis’ Play4theCure game, which will highlight the National Foundation for Cancer Research’s work. The Aggies boast NorPac Players of the Week in senior forward Cloey LemMon and freshman forward Agustina Singh, who lead the front line and will be sure to attract plenty of attention from Cal’s defenders.
Although Cal’s season hasn’t gone as planned, it isn’t all bad for the Bears, as goalkeeper Courtney Hendrickson looks to continue her stellar run in the net. She earned NorPac Defensive Player of the week honors for the third time this season after saving an impressive 30 shots on goal over the last two games, including a career- and program-best 18 saves against the Tar Heels. Hendrickson is fifth in the nation in save percentage and 11th nationally in saves per game.
Although she will have her hands full against Yale and UC Davis, the confidence accumulated from a season of consistent excellence will hold her in good stead as she provides the security blanket for a porous Bears defense. If Hendrickson can keep up her good form, and if the team can shake off recent disappointments to up their game against eminently vulnerable teams, Cal will build up vital momentum toward the season’s end.
Glenn Borok covers field hockey. Contact him at [email protected].