A win streak is not created through a mere two victories — it is cultivated and built upon after a decisive third win, that one becoming a pivotal moment that signals a team’s true prowess. Two wins can be a fluke; three is true talent. As the No. 18 Cal women’s soccer team (10-2-1, 3-1-1) prepares for a showdown against Washington State (7-4-2, 2-3-0), it will be looking to earn that critical win to establish a substantial streak.
After finding success on the road in two hard-fought games, the Bears will be returning back to welcoming Edwards Stadium, where they’ve earned five of their 10 total wins. The last time they played at home, though, they fell to an unranked Arizona team. Needless to say, this weekend’s game against the Cougars will have the added pressure of atoning for that loss.
While Washington State’s record may seem subpar, it’s a poor indicator of the skill of the Cougars’ squad. The Pac-12 is one of the most competitive conferences in the nation for women’s soccer, with four teams in the top 25, and thus every team is one of high quality. There have been no cupcakes on Washington State’s plate.
Perhaps the most notable on schedule is the Cougars’ near 2-1 loss to then-No.2 (now No. 1) Stanford. Despite the Cardinal offense putting up 23 shots, Washington State limited those to just eight on goal, and Cougar goalkeeper Ella Dederick made six clutch saves. What’s more is that Washington State’s defense held an extremely high-powered Stanford offense to no goals in the second half, a testament to its strong defensive line, which is tied for 34th in the nation in shutout percentage.
Cal’s offense will have to make sure that its productivity, which has been hit-or-miss at certain points in the season, is performing at peak form. The Bears cannot afford to miss opportunities against a Washington State team that is adept at making opponents pay for their mistakes.
That being said, though, Cal’s offense is on a particularly productive streak, finishing 25 percent of its opportunities against Utah in its previous game. Both of those scores involved freshman midfielder Luca Deza, who has been an invaluable addition to the Bears’ squad.
In that game against the Utes, however, senior goalkeeper Emily Boyd saw far more action than the Bears should be comfortable with. She was forced to make nine saves as the Utes exploited gaps in Cal’s usually rock-solid defense. Defenders Indigo Gibson, Emily Smith and Haley Lukas are going to have to keep their line tighter if they want to protect their net and prevent the Cougars from earning opportunities.
Those Bears defenders will have to be particularly mindful of WSU junior defender Maddy Haro who, despite her positioning in the back, has accumulated 4 goals and five assists for the Cougars already this season. She has a penchant for creeping up and joining the attack — something the Bears must be aware of as they mark against counterattacks.
“I think we have to stay hungry, I think we shouldn’t be satisfied with our results in conference,” said freshman defender Kailee Gifford. “We need to stay on it, we want to be the best, and in order to be the best, we need to keep earning wins.”
Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]