With the way the Bears’ season has gone, they need a boost to gain momentum going into the NorPac tournament, which will determine whether they receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament. As the Bears’ field hockey season winds down, Cal prepares to take its last trip east this weekend to face two tough opponents in Maine and Boston University. The team is coming off its first win in just under a month after snapping a five-game losing streak against UC Davis.
On Wednesday, the Bears (5-9, 2-3 NorPac) leave for Boston, the location of both of their games this weekend. They will take on Boston University (10-5, 4-1 Patriot League) at 2 p.m. Friday. That will be followed by a game against Maine (9-7, 2-2 America East) on Sunday at 8 a.m.
“We got some good momentum going on the weekend,” said coach Shellie Onstead. “I just think the overall goal is momentum towards the conference tournament, and these next three games are going to be really important for that.”
The road trip won’t be an easy confidence booster, as the Terriers are coming off two consecutive 2-0 wins, and they have lost only one game against an unranked team this season.
The star of the Terriers’ season has been junior netminder Valentina Cerda Eimbcke, who was recently named Patriot League goalkeeper of the week for the third time this season. Eimbcke also leads the Patriot League with an average of 1.3 goals allowed per game, and her save percentage of 78.9 percent ranks second in the Patriot League. Her efforts allowed the Terriers to recently clinch a spot in the Patriot League tournament, which will determine whether they receive an NCAA Tournament bid.
After playing the Terriers, the Bears will stay in Boston to play the Black Bears in their last away game of the season. Maine has an experienced lineup, with only two freshman starters, and the team hopes to use this experience to its advantage. Maine boasts a potent front line, led by Annabelle Hamilton, who has nine goals and 25 points, and Holly Stewart, with nine goals and 24 points.
While their opponents are relatively healthy, the Bears continue to be hobbled by injuries, with many important players barely fit or struggling to play. Star forward Andrea Earle hopes to make it back on the field during this trip, but her status remains doubtful. If Earle and some other banged-up Bears return, they could provide the important spark the team needs to break out of its slump. The team’s spirits were lifted by the return of midfielder Shannon Elmitt against UC Davis last Sunday.
“I really felt like Shannon looked much more like herself on Sunday for the first time since she had been injured, ” Onstead said. “We’re still missing three forwards, which is significant because we try to run the forwards at a pretty high rate.”
Goalkeeper Courtney Hendrickson has continued to be the MVP for the Bears, as she exceeds preseason expectations while keeping her team in close games. She is in the best form of her collegiate career, and she will need to turn in another solid performance to repel the attackers of the two East Coast sides.
Despite the injuries, the Bears have a chance to return with two wins and some momentum going into their final match, against Stanford. Onstead and her team hope that after terminating their longest loss streak in recent memory, they will be able to improve their form and start a winning streak that will help them in the NorPac tournament.
Glenn Borok covers field hockey. Contact him at [email protected].