Much like that of students early in the semester, the schedule for the Cal women’s soccer team is packed right off the bat, featuring a doubleheader weekend just four games in. The Bears (2-1) will host a pair of SoCal opponents at Edwards Stadium, with San Diego State in town Friday and UC Santa Barbara visiting Sunday.
Despite the quick turnaround, it will be business as usual for the Bears this weekend, taking things one game at a time.
“We try as best we can to keep things consistent,” said head coach Neil McGuire. “Unless there’s a particular shift in opponent systems, we tend to focus on us with details pertaining to how our opponent may set up.”
In its last matchup, Cal bested Harvard 2-0, good for the team’s second shutout of the season. The offense proved dominant in that game, as the Bears outshot the Crimson by a whopping 19-1 margin. Redshirt freshman goalie Olivia Sekany also took home the second clean slate of her rookie season, defending Harvard’s lone shot of the game.
The Bears are sure to continue benefiting from the return of senior forward Miranda Nild, who played her first game of the season Friday after returning from a stint with the Thai National Team. Nild hit her first goal of the season against Harvard, delivering on a free kick in just the 14th minute to give the Bears a lead that they would not relinquish.
Cal has not faced San Diego State since 2015, when the Bears beat the Aztecs 2-0. McGuire recorded his 100th career victory in that game and has since added another 39.
San Diego State has struggled offensively to start the season, falling 1-0 in its last game against Long Beach State. The Aztec defense, however, has at least kept the losses close, having not yet surrendered more than two goals in a game this season.
The Gauchos, on the other hand, enter Sunday’s competition coming off a three-game shutout streak, which includes a decisive 7-0 victory against University of Illinois-Chicago. UCSB has yet to drop a game this season and will face USF on Friday night before making the trip across the Bay. The last time Cal met UCSB was in 2005.
“Both teams are capable of keeping the ball, both (are) very possession-oriented teams with the ability to go forward and score goals,” McGuire said. “Ultimately, it’s going to be a game of territory. We’ve got to ensure that we don’t give them comfort and apply pressure at the right times, and then we have to make sure we make decisions with the ball to maintain possession.”
The Bears have yet to lose a game at home this season, boasting a five-game win streak on their home turf that carries over from last season. Between the tight defense of San Diego State and the aggressive offense of UCSB, it will be no easy task to defend that streak this weekend.