Reeling Cal women’s soccer heads to Stanford for rivalry match

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After snapping a six-match winless streak with a victory on Sunday, the Cal women’s soccer team now has a chance to return to national prominence when it takes on Stanford Wednesday night.

The No. 21 Bears will look to upset the No. 7 Cardinal when they head to the Farm for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The matchup pits the Bay Area’s fiercest rivals against each other in the last match of the regular season.

For the Bears, a victory over their rivals would do wonders for team morale. Cal (10-4-5, 3-4-3 Pac-12) will be hoping to exact revenge against a Cardinal team (13-4-1, 6-4-0 Pac-12) that marched into Edwards Stadium last season and shut them out on their home turf. Cal will also be trying to get back on the winning track over the weekend. Perhaps most importantly, a victory for the Bears would help make the case for a high NCAA tournament seed.

After returning from his team’s road trip to Washington, Cal head coach Neil McGuire acknowledged that his squad was challenged by a grueling slate of five road games in 12 days.

“Every team in the conference has to deal with some sort of adversity,” McGuire said. “This is the deepest the conference has been in my time here, and essentially everybody is beating everybody.”

After playing such a densely packed schedule over the past two weeks, the Bears will enjoy a short rest from training before taking the field against the Cardinal. “With so many games in such a short period of time, recovery is more important than training,” McGuire said. Cal will undergo a walk-through Wednesday morning before hopping on the bus to Stanford, and the team will use that time to address its game plan.

McGuire’s tactics will likely include a plan of how to cope with Stanford’s dynamic forward duo of Courtney Verloo and Taylor Uhl. Verloo, a fifth-year senior out of Tualatin, Ore., leads her team with nine goals and six assists this season. She played for the United States in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Germany in 2010 and most recently joined the United States under-23 women’s national side for a camp in May 2012. Verloo is joined up front by the speedy Uhl, a junior from Minnesota who has recorded 10 goals this season. The duo could prove to be a handful for Cal’s defense, which will likely be boosted by the return from injury of senior goalkeeper and captain Emily Kruger.

At the other end of the field, the Bears will be try to exploit the wings and get in behind the Stanford defense with outside attackers Rachel Mercik and Grace Leer. Mercik and Leer will be looking to feed Cal’s center forward and leading scorer Ifeoma Onumonu, who is in a recent dry spell. With a huge match over rival Stanford on Wednesday and the NCAA postseason tournament imminent, Cal is hoping to finish on a high.

“Our focus is having a great performance against Stanford, and we’ll let the selection committee take care of the rest,” McGuire said Monday.

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