Cal women’s soccer treks to Pacific Northwest, looks to snap losing streak

Andrew Peng/Staff

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Coming off a pair of 1-0 losses to lesser-ranked opponents in Oregon and Oregon State, the No. 21 Cal women’s soccer team makes the trek back up north this weekend, hoping for better luck against the Washington schools. The Bears (9-2-5, 2-3-3 Pac-12) will play Washington State (11-3-3, 4-3-1 Pac-12) in Pullman on Friday before traveling west to Seattle to battle it out against Washington on Sunday.

Cal’s losses last week were the team’s first road defeats of the season. Despite playing well defensively, retaining the majority of possession and creating a number of goal-scoring chances in both games, the Bears were ultimately hindered by an inability to finish. Cal compiled 27 shots over the course of the two matches and was even given a penalty kick in the second half against Oregon. Nonetheless, the Bears were unable to fire the ball into the back of the net.

“Everyone is aware of the fact that we could have and should have beaten those teams, and it’s totally on us that we didn’t,” said Cal keeper Emily Kruger. “But there were positives coming out of the fact that we dominated those teams and did a lot of great things. As upset as everyone is, there were positives to take forward.”

For the Bears to return to their winning ways, those positives will need to translate into more goals. Cal’s offense has scored only twice in its past five games, and it faces a staunch Washington State defense Friday that has allowed its opponents to score only 10 goals all season.

“They’re a solid team, and they’ve had some good wins this season,” Kruger said. “Any time you’re on the road in this conference, it’s going to be extremely difficult regardless of who the opponent is.”

The Cougars have posted impressive victories over USC and Utah this season, and they sit four points ahead of Cal in the conference standings. Most recently, Washington State earned a pair of resounding victories at Arizona and Arizona State.

Goalkeeper Gurveen Clair, who is posting an average of 0.58 goals against per game this season, anchors Washington State’s defense. On offense, the Cougars are led by versatile senior forward Micaela Castain, who already has 11 goals and eight assists to her name this season.

Castain may prove to be a handful for a Cal defense that could be fielding a different lineup than usual. The statuses of regular starters Kruger (concussion), center back Nina Pederson (concussion) and right back Ariana Martinez (hamstring) are all in question, and Cal coach Neil McGuire may be forced to field an inexperienced back line.

Regardless of any question marks McGuire may have to deal with in the back, he has had his team working almost exclusively on its offensive tactics this week. The Bears need to start scoring goals, and with only three games left in the regular season, they need to start scoring fast. After a promising start to the campaign that fostered hopes of postseason success, the Bears must pick up their play again in order to earn a high seed for the impending NCAA Tournament.

“I definitely have confidence in our team,” Kruger said after training Wednesday. “I know we can do it. It’s just a matter of being composed in crucial moments and getting the ball into the back of the net.”

Josh Netter covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].