With two ties and a loss in its past three games, the No. 12 Cal women’s soccer team will look to get back on the winning track Friday night when it makes the trek up north to take on the Oregon State Beavers.
The Beavers (4-9-2, 2-3-1 Pac-12) are battling through an injury-ravaged season spoiled by the loss of several key players. Senior defender Morgan Kennedy and sixth-year forward Chelsea Buckland are both lost for the season due to ACL tears, and starting senior forwards Jenna Richardson (concussion) and Brandi Dawson (knee) were unable to partake in the team’s win over Washington State last Friday. Junior defender Marissa Kovac, a 15-game starter last year, also hasn’t played since spraining her ankle Oct. 4. Despite all of its injury problems, Oregon State is decently positioned in sixth place in the Pac-12 and enters Friday’s game coming off two straight wins.
Meanwhile, Cal (9-1-5, 2-1-3 Pac-12) finds itself in a bit of a rut. On Oct. 13, the Bears had a hard-fought loss to No. 2 UCLA. That match has been sandwiched by two ties against USC and Colorado, in which the team lacked consistency for all 90 minutes and struggled to put away its chances. The Bears scored just two goals off of 27 shots over the course of these three games, and both players and coaches have pointed to the team’s need to boost its scoring.
“Finishing in crucial moments and coming ready to play in the first half,” replied senior captain Emi Lawson when asked to identify where the Bears need to improve for the final five games of the season.
In the UCLA game, a valiant second-half effort was not enough to offset a lackluster first-half performance that saw the Bears give up a goal and struggle to keep pace with the Bruins’ high-octane offense. Against Colorado on Friday, Cal again started off slowly. If not for Lawson’s late-game heroics — in which her last-second goal tied the score — the Bears would be entering Friday’s game against Oregon State reeling from two straight losses.
All of this is not to suggest that the Bears’ season will end up a bust. The team still boasts an impressive No. 12 ranking, and with only one loss to its name, there is no need to panic quite yet.
“We can’t forget that we’re 16 games in and we only have one loss,” pointed out Cal head coach Neil McGuire after Cal’s match against Colorado over the weekend. “Ties aren’t great, but having just one loss in this conference is not easy to achieve.”
The Bears sit just two points outside of second place in the airtight Pac-12 standings, and with five games left in the season, there is ample time to make a push for the league title. Cal continues to be led in scoring by the dynamic Ifeoma Onumonu, who has tallied eight goals this season. Behind her, Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick, Rachel Mercik and Samantha Witteman have combined for 17 goals and 10 assists.
If the Bears can rediscover their scoring shoes and find the motivation to maintain a high level of intensity for all 90 minutes against the Beavers, they should leave Corvallis having returned to their winning ways.
Josh Netter covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].