No. 14 Cal women’s soccer heads south to take on UCLA, USC

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The No. 14 Cal women’s soccer team continued its historic season by defeating Washington State on Oct. 2, extending its home winning streak to eight games. The Bears proved once again that they’re a force for any team walking into Edwards Stadium.

But unfortunately for the Bears, they won’t have the comfort of playing at home this week, as they’ll travel to Southern California to compete against No. 10 UCLA and No. 7 USC. Cal knows that it’ll be viewed as a serious Pac-12 contender if it can end the weekend with a pair of wins.

Both of Cal’s losses this season have come on the road. Despite this, Cal head coach Neil McGuire doesn’t believe that’ll be a factor this weekend.

“Ultimately a soccer field’s a soccer field, so our girls are going to be up for any match,” McGuire said. “We’re playing against two exceptional teams in UCLA and USC, so the girls will be excited to play against them.”

The first match of the week will come Thursday against the Bruins, a team that’s only lost twice this season, with the last defeat Sept. 9 against North Carolina. UCLA has dominated most teams that have walked into Drake Stadium this season and is entering this game with a six-game winning streak. Its last win came Sunday when it defeated Oregon 3-2. It was redshirt junior Claire Winter who hit in the game-winning goal in the 86th minute, coming off a corner kick by junior defender MacKenzie Cerda.

The Bruins have depth across their entire roster, which has allowed them to defeat some of the best teams in the nation. They’ll mainly be led on offense by senior Darian Jenkins and freshman Jessie Fleming, who both lead UCLA in goals with seven a piece.

And they’re far from the only Bruins that could make a difference Thursday, as the team has 10 different players that have scored at least one goal this season.

Cal won’t have to travel far for its second game Sunday, as the Bears will travel to McAlister Field to compete against the Trojans. Like the Bruins, USC has talent across the field, like redshirt senior Katie Johnson, who leads her team with six goals on the year.

She’ll likely enter this game with tons of confidence, as she brilliantly scored a hat trick in her team’s last game against Oregon State. It’s players like Johnson that have allowed the Trojans to win nine straight games.

But Cal won’t be intimidated and will enter McAlister Field with a five-game winning streak of its own. Senior Arielle Ship will look to lead the Bears to a victory, which would shake up not only the Pac-12 conference but also the entire country. She currently leads the Bears with seven goals on the season, with redshirt senior Ifeoma Onumonu just behind her with six scores on the year.

The Bears are also entering this game with one of the best defenses in the nation, which was on display in Sunday’s 1-0 win against Washington State. Defenders such as senior Lynsey Hromatko and junior Indigo Gibson constantly put pressure on the Cougars, only allowing two shots on target before it was all said and done.

So far this year, Cal has exceeding expectations by playing unselfishly. But this weekend, the eyes of the Pac-12 conference will be on the Bears as they attempt to prove to the nation that they’re serious contenders.

“We have to focus on us to make sure that we’re our best,” McGuire said. “We need to be organized defensively and take our chances, there no doubt that they’re both very potent offensively, but that’s what this conference is all about. That’s why it’s called the conference of champions.”

Alex Quintana covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].