In 1st game of season, Cal field hockey prepares to face No. 5 Duke

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Now is the time of year when things begin anew and journeys start. For most UC Berkeley students this week, this corresponds with embarking on another school year. Classes start, and friends are greeted with hugs and squeals asking, “How was your summer?” For the Cal field hockey team, this week also signals the beginning of the season. But this season is beginning on a note similar to the last.

One fresh aspect of the year for Cal is that it will be playing its first season in the American East Conference. The Bears were selected to finish in a three-way tie for second place in the West division in an annual preseason coaches’ poll.

On Friday, Cal will face No. 5 Duke in its first game of the season. The match will take place at Stanford as the Bears continue to be nomadic because of delays in the construction of their new home at Underhill Field.

The Blue Devils are entering their first game of the season coming off two scrimmages,  including a game against Wake Forest over the weekend. Duke posted shutouts in both of the matches, defeating the Demon Deacons, 2-0. In the game, the Blue Devils pounced early, with junior forward Heather Morris scoring the first goal in the sixth minute. The team then took advantage of a penalty corner opportunity in the 30th minute, scoring the final goal of the game. Duke then put its defensive toughness on display by holding off Wake Forest from scoring for the rest of the game.

Earlier this summer, the Bears started out their preseason in Berkeley but then moved to Chula Vista, holding a preseason training camp at the Olympic Training Center. In addition to training camp, Cal continued its preseason with an exhibition game against Syracuse played at Stanford.

Because of the lack of a full field near campus, the Bears are practicing on a half field at La Loma Tennis Courts — where only half the team can practice at a time — or traveling all the way to Palo Alto before or after a day full of classes. Because the field is not ready to play on, Cal was also forced to move the time of the game from Friday night to the afternoon.

“(What) I would love to see is people turning up to support us, and unfortunately, this was meant to be a 6 p.m. game on campus, the grand opening on Friday night and the only time we could play at Stanford was noon on Friday, which nobody is going to be there, the parents can barely make it,” said Cal head coach Shellie Onstead. “I can’t discount the fact that this has been rough on us.”

Onstead is confident, however, in this team’s leadership and its ability to guide the large freshman class and show it how to navigate this kind of territory.

“You know, nobody is pouting, nobody is complaining — we certainly are not. Our job is to overcome it,” Onstead said. “I want to see them have the success to validate their hard work, and I want to see them get payoff for how they’ve really pursued.”

Alaina Getzenberg is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]