No. 13 Cal women’s soccer looks to win sixth straight

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Two Bay Area schools will be competing Friday for bragging rights as the No. 13 Cal women’s soccer team will venture across the Bay Bridge to face San Francisco. The Bears will hope to tally their sixth straight win against the Dons.

San Francisco will head into the match with a 6-1-2 record as a result of its latest victory over San Jose State on Tuesday. The Dons are having a solid start to the year, thanks to 10 different players who have found the back of net.

San Francisco will look to midfielder Samantha Jehnings to help end its losing streak against Cal by making an impact on the pitch once again, as she did against the Spartans. She scored twice Tuesday in a fixture that her team trailed, 1-0, in the 26th minute. Jehnings, however, quickly put the Dons back in the game when she evened the score in the 31st minute. The midfielder later got on the scoreboard again off of a rebound in the box, which placed her side in the driver’s seat in the 67th minute.

Jehnings, however, won’t be alone in the Dons’ cause as midfielder Amanda Whittle will likely be by her side orchestrating the midfield. Whittle has been pivotal in helping San Francisco score this season. She’s picked up four assists and notched two goals.

Despite San Francisco’s latest resurgence, Cal will head into the match with the odds considerably in its favor. The Bears are fresh off noteworthy back-to-back wins against UC Riverside and St. Mary’s. Cal defeated Riverside in their first ever encounter and ended St. Mary’s opening season undefeated run. To make the task more daunting for the Spartans, head coach Neil McGuire’s team has been so well this season that it defeated Duke and even managed to give powerhouse North Carolina quite a scare on route to a draw, 1-1.

These feats were accomplished because of the possession-based strategy that has become one of his squad’s strongest points. The Bear’s ability to hold the ball throughout large portions of the game has allowed them to tire out their opposition, which spends a considerable amount of time chasing the ball in hopes of stealing possession. The strategy has allowed junior forward Arielle Ship and senior forward Ifeoma Onumonu to calmly make a pivotal run or pass into the offensive third, when their foes least expect it. The duo has been instrumental in Cal’s success as of late, as Ship has scored seven goals, while Onumonu has recorded five assists and tallied one goal.

More importantly, the possession-based tactics have helped relieve a lot of pressure on defensive stalwarts Annia Mejia, Indigo Gibson and Sandra Ley. Although their foes don’t often get a decent opportunity to trouble the goal, the trio has been diligent in resolving any offensive threats that have presented themselves in the defensive third.

The Bears’ defensive and offensive efforts have been consistent enough that despite the Dons impressive opening-season run, Cal will likely be making trip back to Berkeley with their sixth consecutive victory.

Manny Flores covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @manny_0.