Players of any sport know traveling for away games can take its toll and, in order to combat its potential side effects, a team needs to prepare itself both physically and mentally.
The women’s field hockey team was able to do just that in this weekend’s games against UC Davis and No. 8 Stanford. Cal finished strong against Davis — in a fast-paced 5-2 win that featured stellar performances from multiple rookie players. Sunday’s Stanford game was not quite as successful, but the Bears put in a solid effort in what was ultimately an extremely close 2-1 loss.
Even though Cal wasn’t able to pull ahead against Stanford, the Bears’ strong play and unwavering effort kept the Cardinal on its toes throughout the entire game — a testament to how tough this Bears team really is.
Before the season even started, the Bears knew they would be facing an uphill battle. With the current construction happening at Maxwell Family Field, field hockey has been forced into a nomadic existence, traveling to Stanford for almost daily practices in addition to hitting the road every weekend for multiple games. But they are obviously taking it in stride. In fact, it seems as though they’ve taken one look at this proverbial hill and decided to sprint straight up it — with only a few inevitable detours along the way.
This drive starts with head coach Shellie Onstead — a California Hall of Famer and assistant coach in the 2008 Olympics.
“There’s certain routines we’re bringing every place we go and kind of embracing that fact that, OK, we’re a road team this year, and we can either make it an excuse or make it a strength,” Onstead said. “And they’re doing a great job of making it a strength. It’s pretty unique. I mean, I couldn’t be happier with this start.”
This type of mental approach seems to be paying off. With the win against Davis being the fourth in a season-high win streak, the Bears are playing with confidence. Even the less-experienced players are logging solid minutes and contributing on scoring chances.
“We did a good job of sharing scoring opportunities,” Onstead said. “It wasn’t really falling on any of the players. We actually did a ton of subbing today because it’s really hot and gave some players experience that maybe haven’t had it at positions they’re not even used to.”
Defender Lexi Collins — who had her first career goal — and freshman Paula Seibt were both able to put points on the board against Davis, helping Lara Kruggel and Andrea Earle secure a three-point lead in what would result in a thrilling victory.
A 2-1 loss against Stanford didn’t provide quite the same sense of satisfaction, but the Bears’ ability to hold off scoring in the second half prevented what could easily have been a three-point lead for Stanford. Seibt scored the only Bears’ goal of the game — her second of the weekend — while Earle and Clara Goni both had quality shot attempts.
After the Davis win, Onstead noted, “You can hear them in the background here, they’ve got the music going they’re you know — that’s all really valuable in terms of the team culture and it’s not pressure at all, at this point, it’s just fun.”
Jessi McDonald covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected]