Cal men’s soccer takes aim at new season with freshmen dominated squad

Maya Valluru/File

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Plastered on signs, advertisements and even buses around campus, Cal athletics’ new campaign accentuates the motto of “Earn It” — earn Cal’s prestige, reputation and respect through perseverance. And for the 2018 Cal men’s soccer squad, that’s exactly what the Bears are aiming to do after a somewhat disappointing end to last season.

Coming back after the program’s first postseason appearance since 2014, the Bears will look to establish a strong start in their opening match against Detroit Mercy on Aug. 24, and then will quickly move on to take on Incarnate Word on Aug. 26. Both of those matches will be held at Cal’s home, Edwards Stadium, before the team hits the road at the tail end of the next week.

Nonconference play will continue as Cal faces University of the Pacific, Sacramento State and UC Riverside in preparation for its Pac-12 opener against UCLA on Sept. 27. The Bears have taken down the Bruins in back-to-back matches in what has always been a highly anticipated showdown.

Rather than being hosted on campus, the team’s matchup against the Hornets on Sept. 6 will be held at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, home of MLS’s San Jose Earthquakes.

With 11 of its 18 regular-season matches set to be played at Edwards, Cal will look to take advantage of its home-field edge to secure another playoff opportunity. Its conference slate will include Stanford on two separate occasions; the Cardinal are currently ranked No. 1 nationally.

Last year’s overall record of 11-6 ended bittersweetly for the Bears — while they returned to postseason play for the first time in a few years, a 2-1 defeat to unranked USF in the first round of the NCAA playoffs ended their run prematurely.

While the team will be rooted in the leadership of leading offensive star senior Shinya Kadono and junior goalie Drake Callender, most of the energy will be focused on cultivating a new squad composed of players entering their first season of collegiate competition. This offseason, the Bears welcomed eight freshmen and will return four redshirt freshmen as part of the active roster.

The Bears are hoping that their budding stars will invigorate the team and replace an already accomplished senior class from last season — one that included All-Pac-12 players Jose Carrera-Garcia, Ugo Rebecchini and Paul Salcedo.

The incoming freshman class includes three players ranked among the Top Drawer Soccer National Top 100: defenders JJ Foe Nuphaus (No. 39) and Ian Lonergan (No. 61) and midfielder Taylor Davila (No. 66).

Five-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year Kevin Grimes will be at the helm for his 19th season with the team, eager to put last year’s playoff exit in the rearview mirror.

Alicia Sadowski covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]