If you walk into Edwards Stadium on Sunday and watch the Cal women’s soccer team, it won’t take you long to realize that something special is in the air. The Bears have completely dominated everyone who has stepped onto their home field, as they still haven’t allowed a goal this season.
But Cal must hit the road first before returning home and attempting to continue the shutout streak.
“I think the key this weekend will be patience and ball retention, we need to keep continuing those goal-scoring opportunities and picking those moments out,” said Cal associate head coach Chris Lemay.
The first test of the weekend will come on Friday against St. Mary’s, a team that’s in desperate need of a win. The Gaels’ last win on the field came Aug. 10, when they beat CSU Bakersfield, 1-0, in an exhibition matchup. Since then, St. Mary’s has gone 0-5-1, tying against Idaho the last time it was on the field.
Still, the Bears will need to watch out for several rising stars who will look to have a breakout performance. The Gaels have a team full of hungry underclassmen, such as first-year forwards Jaylen Crim and Jordyn Cunningham. But despite this, they’re mainly led on offense by experienced senior midfielder Samantha Dion, who led her team with two shots on goal against the Vandals. The Bears should easily be able to put away St. Mary’s if they can replicate Idaho and shut down opposing players such as Cunningham.
But the whole weekend will be far from a cake walk.
The toughest test for Cal will come Sunday, when it returns home to compete against UC Davis. Like the Gaels, the Aggies will enter this game needing a win. Their last victory came Aug. 28 against Northern Arizona, leaving the UNLV invitational with a 2-0 win. The Bears will have a tough task ahead of them if UC Davis is able to recreate the energy from its last victory.
Senior forward Celina Minissian is the striker Cal will need to most prepare for, as she can create plays from nothing. This ability was on display in the Aggies’ win against the Lumberjacks, scoring the first goal in the 48th minute. She was without a doubt the main force in that game, leading her team to its first shutout victory of the season.
But the Bears should have no trouble beating both teams if they’re able to find success yet again. In the team’s matchup with Texas, redshirt senior Ifeoma Onumonu led her team to a 1-0 road victory after scoring the day’s only goal in the 68th minute.
The play of the day first developed after a beautiful pass from junior midfielder Kelly Fitzgerald, setting up Onumonu for the game-winning shot from just nine yards out. This was Onumonu’s 26th goal of her collegiate career, making school history by putting her sixth all time in goals. This allowed her to pass two of Cal’s all time greats, Winnie Burns and Andrea Rodebaugh.
Senior Emma Fletcher will also look to have a breakout performance this weekend. She’s coming off a week in which she scored her first goal of the season against Texas Tech, which came in the 63rd minute.
And Cal’s offense will be supported by one of the best defenses in the entire Pac-12. Defenders such as juniors Indigo Gibson and Haley Lukas have shut down numerous opponents this year, ending opposing plays that looked promising.
The Bears are hoping to follow Onumonu’s lead and make this season one for the history book, but to do that, they must first go through St. Mary’s and UC Davis.
“Everything has really switched for us since the Portland game, I thought we developed really good rhythm in that game, and it’s carried over into our last few matches,” Lemay said.
Alex Quintana covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].