The Cal field hockey team has its work cut out for it going into this weekend where it will face off against Kent State and No. 10 Michigan. Last Sunday, the Bears fell to Northeastern in overtime to stretch their losing streak to five games. Cal will have to focus in on eliminating the defensive errors that ultimately cost it the game last weekend, as well as keep spirits up.
“I think we are going to keep building on what we have been in the preseason — working on the communication and our defense,” said sophomore captain Janaye Sakkas. “Just working well together so we can work as one unit in the next games.”
On Friday at Underhill, the Bears will be challenging Kent State, which has started the season with wins over both Michigan State and Villanova by scores of 3-1 and 4-1, respectively. The key to Kent State’s success has been focusing on getting shots off. In their game last Saturday, the Golden Flashes took 22 shots while Villanova was only able to log six. The players to look out for are redshirt junior Alison Harmatz and senior Krysti Lober who each recorded at least five shots against Villanova.
The Bears will have one day off to recuperate before playing Michigan on Sunday. While Michigan has a 1-1 record, it has already played two highly ranked teams. It won 1-0 against the top-ranked team in the country, North Carolina, but then fell 2-0 to No. 7 Wake Forest.
Michigan was able to keep the Tar Heels at bay, matching all of their impressive shot attempts with strong defensive saves to keep the score at 0-0 until the very end. Michigan triumphed in its game against North Carolina, however, in a similar way that Northeastern brought Cal into overtime last Sunday — on a penalty corner with no time left on the clock.
The Bears will have to overcome the fact that they have only played one official game so far while most teams around the country have already had two, and had the opportunity to work on positioning and making plays under pressure.
The Bears, however, conditioned a lot in the preseason and kept the intensity high for the whole game against Northeastern.
“I am really happy with our fitness,” said Cal head coach Shellie Onstead, “But 11 corners to zero (during regulation against Northeastern) is a big problem, so that is something we are going to need to address.”
As long as the Bears are careful about not giving up penalty corners, the competition should be close. Despite its loss, the team is enthusiastic about the opportunity to keep playing games and to get in its groove.
“(In the preseason) we really focused on the fundamentals because if you can execute the fundamentals well under pressure, you can do it well in the game,” Sakkas said. “I think all of that going from preseason into now, it has just been building, and even this is the next step towards another game, and we are going to improve from there.”