Cal lacrosse visits home state of 4 players to face UConn, then heads to UMass Lowell

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Moving away to college can be strenuous on students, especially when school is far from home. Lucky enough for redshirt sophomore Eliza Christman, her team will be accompanying her on a trip back to her hometown.

Well, almost. Christman and the rest of the Cal lacrosse team will be traveling across the country to play the University of Connecticut, whose campus is just 40 miles from Christman’s high school. The reunion will be short-lived, though, because after Friday’s game against the Huskies, the Bears will head to Massachusetts-Lowell to face the River Hawks’ young program.

Heading to Connecticut actually puts multiple Cal players in familiar territory. Freshmen Marisa Kuberra and Nikki Zaccaro and sophomore Susie Ropp all hail from the Constitution State. This trio and Christman are key pieces to the Bears’ offense, as they have accounted for 19 of this season’s 40 total goals.

In March of last year, UConn soundly defeated Cal, 17-8. The Huskies pounced on the Bears early, taking a quick 5-1 lead on Cal’s home turf. With eight minutes left in the game, Christman scored to close the gap to 11-8, but the Huskies knocked out all hope for Cal with six straight goals to end the contest.

For UConn, current senior Kelsey Catalano gouged Cal for four goals. Turnovers on offense also plagued the Bears; they coughed up the ball 26 times compared to only 16 Husky turnovers. This time, when Cal heads to Storrs, Connecticut, the players will be focused on protecting their pride.

Cal’s two opponents this weekend couldn’t be more different from each other. The Huskies recently celebrated their coach’s 100th career victory, with 74 wins coming during her eight-year span as the UConn head coach. On the opposite side of the spectrum, UMass Lowell’s program only has three seasons under its belt, with this season being its first year of Division 1 eligibility.

Seniors on UMass’ team this year were the first round of players ever to play women’s lacrosse as a River Hawk. Their commitment to the program was simply based on their coach’s word and a leap of faith. The program’s beginnings have been rough, as the team has grossed a combined record of 8-42.

Using last season to compare the two teams, Cal runs a much faster-paced, more potent offense. This season, the Bears are averaging 32.3 shots per game and 13.3 goals per game compared to Lowell’s 21 shots per game and 8.4 goals per game last season.

While UMass has had its struggles, the program is on an upward trend. The River Hawks won seven games last season after winning only one the previous year. On top of that, UMass’ current players have had plenty of opportunity to grow with only one senior last season taking up a starting spot. This year, the team has a full staff of six seniors.

With such rapid improvement and so much change in leadership, it’s hard to know what to expect from the River Hawks’ 2018 squad as it faces the Bears this week.

Armen Aprahamian covers lacrosse. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @armnhammer_.