Last weekend, the Cal women’s soccer team opened the season with a chip on its shoulder, winning its first game of the season against Cal Poly, 1-0. The celebration didn’t last long though, as the Bears lost to Santa Clara 1-0 on Sunday in a second overtime nail biter.
Still, the Bears aren’t the only team hungry to have a breakout season.
New Mexico and Portland will travel to Edwards Stadium this weekend, looking to beat them on their own field.
And their opponents definitely have the offensive, and defensive, ability to do just that. Despite being 1-1, the Lobos will still be a tough test for the Bears this weekend. New Mexico’s only win came in its season opener against Eastern New Mexico University.
“Our focus this weekend is to improve our Cal circulation, and try as much as possible to protect the goal,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire.
The score was tied 1-1 up until the very last minute, when UNM’s freshman Avadney Osbourne kicked a precise pass to sophomore Aleksandra Mihailovic who ripped in a shot from the top of the box, entering the right side of the net. And it came just at the right time, as there was only 18 seconds left remaining in the game.
The determination and heart the Lobos showed in their season opener only proves that the Bears will have a tough challenge when they compete this weekend.
Portland is another team that can give the Bears some problems. So far, the Pilots have won their only game of the season, 2-1, against Washington. The Pilots had an all-around team performance, so if there’s one team the Bears should prepare for the most, then it should be them. Portland also has one of the best goalkeepers in the entire nation in Hanna de Haan, ranking ninth all time at Portland with a career saves percentage of 80.2. And not just that, but she also ranks 10th all time in overall career saves with 81.
“What we need to work on the most is our counter attacks, and we need to learn how to deal with those situations,” McGuire said.
Cal’s offense prowess, however, isn’t too shabby itself, and if it plays to its full potential, they’ll have no problem getting past both opponents. The Bears’ only score in the season came from redshirt senior Ifeoma Onumonu in their season opener against Cal Poly. Still, despite the final score, the result could have been much different because of the fact that the Bears had 11 shots on goal that were unable to find success. Cal’s defensive prowess was on fire, and the same situation will be handed to Portland if the Bears are able to play with the same ferocity.
The Bears defensive squad, however, was the story of the game. They were able to withstand constant offensive pressure from Santa Clara, which took a total of four shots on goal and six corner kicks. Still, none of them were enough to get between the goalposts, especially with Emily Boyd leading the helm.
“Our team’s commitment to winning is very courageous, fearless, and we have good mental toughness,” McGuire said.
And luckily for the Bears they have one of the toughest goalkeepers in the entire Pac-12 themselves. Boyd was able to hold Santa Clara back in Cal’s season opener, skillfully saving three shots on goal despite losing.
Cal should have no difficulty defeating New Mexico and Portland if it can show the offensive and defensive prowess from its two season openers.
“Our goal this season is to just take it one game at a time, we want to at least be competitive every time we step out on the field,” McGuire said. “I believe we have a shot at a Pac-12 and national championship if we can play at that level.”
Alex Quintana covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].