It would seem one shot is not enough to take down a fearsome bear.
The Cal women’s soccer team’s first loss of the season usurped the Bears from their lofty No. 8 national ranking and sent the squad one rung down the list to the No. 9 spot. Despite the slight drop, Cal (9-1-4, 2-1-2 Pac-12) remains in the elite ranks of the nation’s top 10 after its 1-0 loss to then-No. 2 UCLA. Despite suffering its first defeat, the squad may find a silver lining as it heads into its face-off with Colorado (11-3, 3-2 Pac-12). The teams will kick off at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Edwards Stadium.
“We no longer have to talk about the unbeaten streak and can talk about one game at a time,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire after the loss to UCLA. “So it is back to the drawing board as we prepare for Colorado.”
Cal may have gone 13 games without losing, and it may hold an impressive national ranking, but it should not overlook the Buffs. Colorado also started the season on a hot streak, winning eight of its first nine games.
That hot streak faltered a bit when the Buffs started conference play, which is not atypical for teams in the cutthroat Pac-12. Colorado’s conference opener pitted the squad against then-No. 2 Stanford, a game in which the Buffs fell 2-0 to the Cardinal. Following that defeat, Colorado found success against Oregon, Oregon State and Washington and suffered another loss to Washington State.
“Colorado is very hardworking and pretty scrappy,” said senior Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick. “They definitely play well as a unit, and that is why they are able to upset certain teams. We need to go out and play as a team as well, because if we don’t, they are going to expose our breakdowns.”
Like the Buffs, the Bears have found mixed results in conference competition. After opening conference play with a tie against Utah, Cal proceeded to tally wins against Arizona and Arizona State, a tie with USC and its most recent loss to UCLA.
Both teams have had ups and downs but have been relatively successful this season. For the Buffs, the matchup is an opportunity to prove they can compete with the big dogs of the Pac-12. For the Bears, it is a chance to show they can overcome the loss to UCLA and bounce back. Cal is looking to demonstrate that it remains one of the best teams in the nation and is in the hunt for the Pac-12 title.
“We want to prove to ourselves that we can get the shutout, that we can play good soccer and get the result we want,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think that this game kind of sets the tone for the rest of conference play.”
Yet another factor likely to contribute to the game’s competitiveness is the reminder of last year’s bout. Unranked Colorado took an early lead against the Bears, putting two goals in during the match’s opening stages and creating a significant hole for Cal to dig itself out of. The Bears rose to the challenge, and freshman phenom Ifeoma Onumonu recorded two goals of her own to tie the game. With the game ending in a tie, overtime ensued, and senior Lauren Battung seized the golden goal to give the Bears the victory.
Taylor Brink covers women’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]