Thursday marks the first postseason game of the year for the Cal field hockey team, but wishing them good luck would be a waste. According to their coach, they are taking fate into their own hands.
The Bears will face Appalachian State, a team they haven’t yet encountered this season. Both teams are hoping for the chance to advance in the NorPac Conference tournament to play in the semifinal round Friday.
“We haven’t seen them all year, so I expect a typical conference game where whatever you know about each other really doesn’t matter,” said head coach Shellie Onstead. “It’s going to be tight. We’re going to make sure we have to create our own luck and not find ourselves in a situation like we did last weekend.”
The last couple of weeks have been rough for the Bears. Their four straight losses indicate their recent inability to score, even though there have been moments where the Bears have dominated play. It seems as though their travel schedule has begun to take its toll, and after a recent string of transportation mishaps, the team is more than grateful to get back to the regular grind. In fact, keeping things normal is exactly what Onstead had in mind while preparing for this weekend’s tournament.
“It’s tournament time, which is really pretty much the best time of the year,” Onstead said. “It’s a little different approach, but you’re kind of between this ‘make it as normal as possible’ and obviously, you know, the mentality is survive and advance. … We want as much normalcy as we can.”
Onstead was hoping that a win against Pacific last weekend would set the team up with a bit of momentum in terms of mentally preparing for the NorPac Championships. Instead, the Bears lost 1-0, but the team’s frustration with their loss may actually prove to be more beneficial. Getting a chance to play on the Pacific turf last weekend, right before the NorPac tournament, was something that Onstead accounted for when determining the Bears’ game schedule during the preseason and is a factor that she hopes will positively contribute to this weekend.
The Bears have a 2-2 conference record and are the No. 2 seed in the West, while the Mountaineers are 1-3 and the No. 3 seed in the East. Whoever wins Thursday’s 11 a.m. matchup will continue on to face the East’s No. 1 seed, Liberty, on Friday in the semifinals.
The Mountaineers have combated an eight-game losing streak earlier this season, which they ultimately broke in a 2-1 win over Towson University on Oct. 19. In their last four games, they are 2-2 and are currently coming off a loss against Virginia Commonwealth last Sunday.
Pacific and UC Davis will also be playing Thursday for a spot in the semifinals against Stanford on Friday.
Everything leads up to the final championship match Saturday at 1:30 p.m. And while thinking ahead is inevitable, Onstead is keeping the team focused on taking it one game at a time.
“It’s huge,” Onstead said. “The pressure’s there, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. It’s how you respond to it, and I do think your ability to stay calm and let your training take over is probably the biggest point.”
Jessi McDonald covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected].