November Madness. The new month beckons the postseason field hockey tournament, where anything can happen.
The Cal field hockey team will certainly be relying on some of the magic of collegiate athletics to pull it through the America East Conference Championships, which start Thursday. Facing a four-game losing streak, the Bears will be looking to prove they can truly contend with their conference opponents.
“I knew from the start that it was about putting it together at the end of the season,” said Cal head coach Shellie Onstead. “I was always pretty sure we would be looking to make a move in the conference tournament.”
Cal (4-12) will be facing Maine (13-6) on Friday in Stockton, where all the games are being played, in the quarterfinals of the tournament.
The tournament is single-elimination with only three rounds. That means that if Cal triumphs over Maine, it will already be in the semifinals. A winner will be decided by Sunday.
“We are playing Maine, so the girls are stoked about that,” Onstead said. “This week we need to work on getting everybody nice and rested. We need to tune up our midfield steals, as we have not generated enough goals the last couple games.”
Earlier this season, the Bears logged an impressive 3-1 win over the Black Bears, despite junior goalkeeper Kori Griswold being concussed in the previous game. After losing backup goalie freshman Danielle Mentink, Cal played the first 25 minutes without a goalie at all but rather a kicking back. For the remainder of the game, fifth-year senior Lexi Collins suited up and went into the goal. Collins managed to make four saves throughout the game, and her attitude contributed immensely to the win.
The success for the Bears that game can also be attributed to the hard work of the defense and the range of players that were involved in goal-scoring plays. In order to record a repeat win, Cal first and foremost will have to channel positive energy despite recent road bumps in the season.
The five defenders that played the entirety of the last matchup — sophomore Keats Iwanaga, freshmen Kyra Kent and Femke Delissen, junior Mara Gutierrez and senior Monica Marrazzo — will have to be extremely focused to stop Maine’s offensive advances.
And Maine will have no such shortage.
Since their loss to Cal, the Black Bears have gone 3-1, namely logging a 4-1 win over Vermont — a team to whom the Bears lost.
If Cal comes out on top against Maine, it will be playing the winner of the Stanford-UMass Lowell game, both of which have worse records than Maine. At this point, however, the Bears should not get ahead of themselves. The key to success for this tournament is to take it one step at a time, starting with focusing on preparations for the Maine game.
“I was less concerned with the win-loss record in the regular season than making sure we were ready for post-season,” Onstead said. “I certainly expected to have a better record at this point, but it is nice that the format is anyone can make a run now.”
Lucy Schaefer covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected]