After a playing hiatus, the Cal field hockey team (1-5) has had almost a week and a half to rethink its strategies that have not given them much success so far this season. This weekend the Bears will be making another cross country trip to North Carolina where they will play Appalachian State on Friday and Wake Forest on Sunday. So far this season, Cal has seemed most comfortable, ironically, on the road, so this weekend should bring two competitive games.
After seemingly initiating an upward trend two weekends ago with their goal against No. 6 Maryland and win against Fairfield, the Bears fell back into their rut when they faced Drexel on Sept. 14. The game against the Dragons, however, was extremely close, with Cal having the majority of the ball control but giving up a few fatal breakaways that were converted into Drexel goals.
While the Bears lost 2-1, they and Drexel shared almost identical game stats in terms of saves and penalty corners. According to Cal head coach Shellie Onstead, the Bears logged a season high of around 21 circle penetrations in their last game, so though the improvements are not reflected in game outcomes, they are still being made.
“We want to create more opportunities in the top 25 yards,” Onstead said. “If we get so many circumpenetrations, we can’t leave without a shot, goal or penalty.”
Starting on Friday, Cal will face Appalachian State, who has the same 1-5 record as the Bears. Appalachian State used to be in the NorPac Conference along with the Bears, so they have a history of playing each other, usually in highly competitive games. This season the Mountaineers recorded their only win against LIU Brooklyn. Appalachian State has played a larger number of small schools than Cal so far this season, which means the Mountaineers are not acclimated to playing the high-quality teams that the Bears have been facing off against.
No. 14 Wake Forest currently boasts an over-500 record, at 4-3. It has already matched up against some of the top teams in women’s field hockey, including No. 8 Michigan, whom Wake Forest beat 2-0. Earlier this season, the Bears fell to Michigan, 5-0. Cal will have to be particularly wary of forward Nicola Pluta, who scored both goals in Wake Forest’s game against No. 1 Syracuse, which the Demon Deacons dropped, 4-2.
The Bears will have to be alert on defense to avoid any goals caused by breakaways and ill-coverage. It will also be crucial that Cal recreate some of its passing sequences that worked so well against Drexel. The key will be to switch the field and tire the other team out until the Bears can orchestrate fast breaks of their own. The top players to watch are sophomores Melina Moore and Janaye Sakkas, but Onstead says there is a lot of competition for the next four to six spots.
“I am still toying with the offensive and defensive line and finding combinations that work,” Onstead said. “I have been either playing fewer players and letting them get in their groove, or subbing quickly to keep the energy high.”
Lucy Schaefer covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected]