Cal women’s soccer to close out home slate against Oregon State, Oregon

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The No. 20 Cal women’s soccer team (11-2-1, 4-1-1) is looking to sail through its last weekend at home with a pair of matches against Oregon State (4-7-3, 1-4-1) on Thursday and Oregon (7-7, 1-5) on Sunday. Both teams are among the bottom four of the conference and should be easy points for the Bears, who have had a string of wins against Pac-12 opponents. Senior day falls Sunday, when Cal’s five seniors will be honored for their performances and their overall record of 51-18-9 during their time with the Bears.

“I think (we have) a little bit of excitement and nervousness (heading into the last few games of the season),” said senior Heather Walleigh. “If we can win all of our remaining games, it puts us in a really good position to potentially win the Pac-12, and (we would be) in a really good spot for the NCAA tournament, so I think a lot rides on these next couple of games. We’re excited to wrap up the season but we are also kind of nervous.”

The Bears have the Beavers beat across the board. Cal has outshot Oregon State 200 to 151 so far this season and has outscored the Beavers with 21 goals to seven. Sophomore Abi Kim and junior Miranda Nild continue to lead the Bears with six and five goals, respectively. Oregon State senior Emma Jones is the team’s top offensive player, and while she only has 2 goals, she has outshot every player on Cal with 40 shots and ranks eighth in the Pac-12 for shots.

The Bears’ defense has been superb all season. They have had eight shutouts this fall, and are hoping to stretch their current shutout streak to four Thursday. Senior goalkeeper Emily Boyd has been named the Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week on two separate occasions, most recently Oct. 10, and she has 44 saves to show for it.

“I think our defense just keeps getting stronger,” said Walleigh. “We’re definitely not falling down on the defensive side which is nice. It feels good to go into our last couple games knowing that we’ve had a couple shutouts in a row.”

One mark of a competitive team is the ability of the players to work constructively all over the field. A defender doesn’t just stand behind the halfway line and stop opponents from taking shots, and a forward doesn’t just wait for the ball and make runs forward — all players participate on both offense and defense.

Almost every player for Cal has taken at least one shot in a game, which accentuates just how well-rounded this team is. Getting a shot off may sound easy, but watch any soccer game, and you’ll see how difficult it is for a player to weave their way through an opponent’s defense.

The Bears are fourth in the conference, behind their upcoming rivals Stanford, UCLA and USC. There is no doubt that Cal’s hardest games are yet to come, and a lot rides on a good performance. This weekend should be a breeze, but if the Bears fail to play as well as they have been, the team may find itself out of luck.

Sophie Durham covers women’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].