Cal lacrosse hosts Michigan, St. Joseph

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The Cal women’s lacrosse team is finally back in Berkeley, playing its second game at home after three away games around the country. The Bears (1-3) begin their weekend with a game against Michigan (0-5) on Friday evening in Memorial Stadium. Since Michigan lacrosse’s inaugural season in 2014, Cal has played the team twice and has lost both times by two or fewer goals. As Michigan has yet to win a game this season, the Bears should have their best chance to take one off the Wolverines.

Michigan has already played a match in California this week. It took on No. 20 Stanford on Tuesday evening and lost 15-10. Michigan had a fairly strong first half and was only down by one goal after the first 40 minutes. But Stanford had a four-goal scoring run midway through the second half, and Michigan was unable to recover.

Michigan did best the Cardinal in one facet of the game. It dominated in draw controls, out-dueling Stanford 9-5 in the first half and 8-5 in the second. Michigan senior Anna Schueler had seven draw controls in the game, among a team-high 25 on the season.

“(Michigan has) a really good player on the draw,” said Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks. “She doesn’t take it, she’s on the circle and she is leading the team by a lot so we’ve been planning on how we are going to counter her.”

The Bears will turn around and play St. Joseph’s (1-2) on Sunday afternoon for the first time since 2001. The last time they met, Cal walked away with a 14-10 victory. The Hawks have lost two of their three games so far this season, but the losses have both been by a margin of only one goal. This will be the first away game for St. Joseph’s.

Cal had struggles on all ends of the field against Ohio State last Sunday. It was unable to hold off Ohio State offensively and couldn’t take enough shots on attack to close the goal differential, ending in a 14-8 loss.

“We got lost defensively when Ohio State was setting picks and sending two or three cutters at a time, so we’re working on that,” Eubanks said. “Offensively, Ohio State did a really good job of stopping the one-on-one drive, so making sure that our attack is passing twice out of the double team in order to find an open person have been some of our main focuses this week.”

These issues, however, haven’t kept Cal from capitalizing on scoring opportunities. So far this season, Cal has 41 goals, with senior captain Jena Fritts leading the team with 11 goals and Elizabeth Pellechi, the team’s leading goalscorer in 2016, following close behind with seven. Last season, the Bears had only scored 34 goals after four games. Cal’s game this season against Butler, where it scored 19 goals, cushioned its goal differential and put it in a favorable position to maintain a high differential the rest of the season.

“(I want to see) multiple people scoring on the offensive end so we aren’t just having one person scoring the majority of the goals in the game, we are seeing more of a balance on the attack,” Eubanks said.

The game against Michigan will be the first of a five-home-game run for Cal. After the game against St. Joseph’s on Sunday, the Bears will face William and Mary, Connecticut, and Marquette before finishing March with two games in San Diego. If the Bears can walk away from this weekend with two wins, it may boost their confidence and help them cruise through the rest of the season.

Sophie Durham covers lacrosse. Contact her at [email protected].