Mother Nature was the MVP of the Bears’ weekend trip to New England. Cal lacrosse found her to be its toughest matchup in its games against University of Connecticut and University of Massachusetts Lowell.
In both their loss to UConn in freezing temperatures and their rain-soaked victory against UMass Lowell, the Bears’ common opponent proved to be the weather.
“(Playing against UMass Lowell) was definitely a difficult game,” said redshirt freshman Lauren Hickman. “It was wet, our sticks were wet, our gloves — we’re not even used to really wearing gloves — were wet.”
Adverse conditions or not, the midfielder out of Frisco, Texas handled herself perfectly well. Hickman recorded a hat trick, the first of her career, to help propel the Bears to a 9-5 victory over the River Hawks.
Redshirt sophomore Kirsten Swanson tallied three goals — just another day at the office for the attacker, who has now recorded 13 goals on five games this season.
The messy setting defined the game.
“It was really hard to handle the ball and feel it in our sticks,” Hickman said.
The Bears’ 27 turnovers in that game make up nearly a third of their season total.
“(Sunday) was really more about grinding it out and getting through inclement weather while focusing on play-by-play and letting the mistakes go,” said Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks.
Cal got ahead early and steadily pumped out goals for the duration of the match. The River Hawks tested the Bears with a few scores of their own but were never able to take the lead.
Though Cal was able to tough out the deluge in Lowell, they couldn’t shake the cold in Storrs, Connecticut on Friday.
Against the Huskies, temperatures reaching the depths of 34 degrees added to the home team’s advantage.
“Obviously we’re not used to that out in California,” Hickman said. “A lot of us had all of our cold gear on, and coming in and out of the field, we would have hand warmers.”
Immediately out of the gate, Cal notched the first two goals of the game. But the Huskies snuffed out the Bears’ streak and then some by stringing together five of their own goals. As the half winded down, Cal managed to tighten it up to 5-3.
Despite the competitive score, the Bears fired problematically fewer shots in the first half than the Huskies, giving up 17 while only shooting nine themselves. The discrepancy continued in the second half, with Cal again being overwhelmed by UConn in the category.
“I think the positive about that game is we were able to execute and finish on the opportunities that we did have,” Eubanks said. “But unfortunately, we had a ton of unforced turnovers. That’s what hurt us — we didn’t get as many chances to get quality shots off.”
Limited opportunities to score ultimately unraveled Cal’s chances to win, and the Bears fell, 8-12.
“It’s definitely a hard trip, coming out all the way to the East Coast for four days and having to get two games in with the weather and all that,” Eubanks said. “But ultimately, we do that so that when we achieve our goals of playing in the NCAA tournament, we’re prepared.”