After capturing its first Pac-12 win, Cal lacrosse will find a break from its loaded conference schedule.
In front of a friendly home crowd, the Bears will play host to former conference opponent Fresno State on Friday night.
Familiar opponents, Cal and Fresno State have met every season for the last nine years and, up until this season, played together in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
This year, Cal left MPSF to join the newly established Pac-12, along with USC, Colorado, Stanford and Oregon. The MPSF is now only home to three teams.
Last season, when they were still conference foes, Cal defeated Fresno State on the Bulldogs’ home field, 16-14, behind five goals from attacker Jena Fritts, who has since graduated.
The Bears have controlled the series recently, having snagged wins from seven of the last nine meetings.
Should the Bears overcome the Bulldogs, Cal would pick up its sixth win of the season — a step in the right direction for the program which has not been able to string together six wins in a season since 2013, when it won nine.
The Bears showed signs of growth early in the season when they jumped out to a 4-2 start, which was their best since that strong 2013 season. Collecting their sixth win will keep Cal moving forward after finding difficulty in the middle of the season against high-power Pac-12 teams.
In terms of preparation for the Bulldogs, the Bears have been honing in on securing as many loose balls as possible.
“They’re a pretty scrappy team, so we’ve been doing a lot of 50-50 drills and practices like the rebound drills,” said senior attacker Parker Garrett. “We’ve been … working on the draw, making sure we can gain possession because, you know, ‘win the draw, rule the world.’ ”
Garrett, who is coming off of a four-goal performance in the Bears’ win against the Sun Devils, is not the first on her team to use that phrase — it’s a saying that floats about the locker room.
“It’s kind of like a mentality that we have — if you win the draw … kind of get the next goal and have the momentum going forward,” Garrett said.
The teams had a common opponent in Mercer, and the results bode favorably for the Bears. Cal’s 18-8 home blowout of Mercer makes Fresno State’s 15-11 home win looks much less impressive in comparison.
But comparing by common opponents can be misleading, and Fresno State’s offense is running like a well-oiled machine. The Bulldogs have scored 54 more goals than the Bears in one fewer game and have scored on 46.6 percent of their shots, compared to the Bears’ 37.5.
At the center of Fresno State’s offense is junior attacker Sarah Bloise, who leads her team in both goals and assists.
Naturally, her high-volume scoring comes at the price of leading the team in turnovers. If the Bears can fluster Bloise into throwing the ball away, they can limit the Bulldogs’ offensive threats.
“I think the most important point of focus is just never letting up, playing with grit … (and) making sure that we’re consistent throughout the game,” Garrett said.