It’s been six years since the Cal field hockey team (8-6) has ended its season with a positive record. This year, it has managed to reestablish itself as a team that has a shot at winning its conference and perhaps contend for a NCAA championship for the first time since head coach Shellie Onstead played with the team in 1980. This weekend, the Bears will have another chance to prove themselves and end their six-year drought when they take on America East Conference rivals UC Davis (1-13) at home and No. 17 Stanford (8-6) on Cardinal turf.
That’s not to say it’s been simple. Cal has been keeping its fans on edge throughout a rollercoaster season. After a rocky 1-3 start, the Bears got things rolling and went on a six-game win streak. All of a sudden, the Bears looked as they did in years past, when they were consistently ranked and considered a field hockey powerhouse. But just as things were looking up, the team’s momentum came tumbling down after losing to three ranked teams in a row (No. 6 Penn State, No. 22 Ohio State, No. 23 Pacific).
Now, the Bears have recovered from their mishaps after an upset 4-2 win against AEC rival Stanford at home this past Sunday to add to Cal’s weekend full of upset wins.
“Any time you have a day like that, with that kind of atmosphere — and to come through victorious absolutely gains confidence,” Onstead said. “We finally got our facility finished and finally have a proper home field and a proper home field advantage. I think Stanford felt that for the first time, and we put it to use, but we have to contend the fact that they’ll have a home field advantage this Sunday.
The Bears will have the opportunity to end their regular season against two AEC teams whom they have already had the pleasure of meeting with and recording wins against.
The Aggies are 0-4 away from home this season, and Cal is 3-3 at home. It’s hard to tell whether Davis’ inability to win as visitors — or simply win in general — will give the Bears an upper hand when they face off at Underhill, in light of Cal’s even slate at home. One thing’s for certain, though — Cal’s explosive offense should give it the edge against Davis.
On paper, things should get ugly. Davis has allowed 3.64 goals per game this season, while Cal has notched 2.71 per game. Cal has five players on its team who have scored more goals this season than UC Davis’ top scorers (tied at 2 goals each). Additionally, Cal freshman Megan Rodgers has scored 15 goals this season, three more than Davis’ grand total of 12.
“We are not going to look past (Davis),” Onstead said. “We’ve gotta take one at a time. Their record is not good, but they’re battle-tested, they get better every week, they have close losses and overtime losses. I consider them extremely dangerous because they’ve only got a couple (games) left to make something happen.”
As for the Cardinal, a 4-0 record at home may not be as intimidating for the Bears who have performed comfortably when visiting teams on their own field and are 4-2 away from Underhill Field.
Stanford’s defense has been shutting down offenses like Cal’s with 1.79 goals allowed per game, while the Bears come in hot with 2.71 goals per game. Perhaps the Bears can still find a way to score on this Cardinal defense, as they have 15.3 shots per game compared to Stanford’s 11.6 shots per game.
After a surprising start to this season, the Bears can surely end on a good note before their conference tournament by taking Davis and ranked Stanford down one more time.
“The best example (of the unexpected) is our football game from Friday,” Onstead said. “Anything can happen, you just gotta take care of business.”
Jesus Aceves covers field hockey. Contact him at [email protected]
A previous version of this article stated that it has been five seasons since Cal recorded a winning season. In fact, it has been six season.