Cal field hockey set to host Yale on Sunday in defensive battle

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It’s always nice to go home after a long day, and after last weekend’s 0-2 road trip, home field will be a welcome sight for the Cal field hockey team as it faces off with Yale at Underhill Field on Sunday.

Yale (3-0) is off to its best start since 2010 and is led by head coach Pam Stuper, now in her 14th season with the Bulldogs. Despite the graduation of last year’s top goal-scorer Carol Middough, almost all of Yale’s rotation has returned. Last year’s second and third leading scorers, Bridget Condie and Imogen Davies, lead the team with five combined goals so far.

Both players earned Second Team All-Ivy League selections last season and currently spearhead a Yale offense that averages 16.7 shots per game, 60 percent of which are on goal. Davies, a sophomore midfielder, is particularly adept at challenging opposing goalkeepers; she posted an 88.9 shot-on-goal percentage last year and has started this season with 83.3 percent of her shots on target.

Condie, on the other hand, is more of a volume shooter — she averages 4.0 shots per game this season but holds just a 10.0 percent career shooting percentage.

Defensively, the Bulldogs are paced by sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Terroso, a First Team All-Ivy League selection as a freshman, when she earned four shutouts and ranked eighth in the country with a save percentage of 78.4. This season, Terroso holds a 77.8 save percentage and has surrendered just four goals.

In the backfield with Terroso is an experienced group: senior captain Jackie Kisa and juniors Alex MacKay and Holly Jackson have combined for 78 career starts, and they’ve helped hold opponents to 10.3 shot attempts per game this year.

Though Yale is undefeated, its schedule so far has been relatively calm. The Bulldogs are set to face No. 19 Stanford tonight, but their first three games all came against unranked teams that finished 40th or worse out of 78 Division 1 teams in last year’s RPI rankings.

Cal (2-3), though, has already been put through the gauntlet early this season. In its first five games, Cal faced off with three of the top eight teams in the country in No. 1 North Carolina, No. 3 Maryland and No. 8 Louisville.

These elite teams have dealt the Bears each of Cal’s three losses and have worked to deflate the team’s stats: The Bears have been outscored 2.80 to 1.40 and outshot 14.0 to 8.4 on the season. Opponents also hold a 35-17 penalty corner advantage over Cal, which is a key metric, as 9 of the 14 goals conceded by the Bears this year have come on or directly after corner opportunities.

Cal’s record, therefore, doesn’t completely reflect the level of play from the Bears this year. Two losses were at the hands of two of the top three teams in the country, and the other loss came in overtime against another top-10 team.

Wins and losses aside, the Bears have a lot to be excited about moving forward. Individual play is promising: Forward Megan Rodgers is coming off of a record-setting freshman year, and though stingy top-10 defenses have kept her at bay thus far, she has not displayed signs of a sophomore slump.

Even as the focal point for opposing defenses, Rodgers has scored four times and assisted twice. When she’s on a breakaway one-on-one with a defender, she is dangerous, and during these sequences, the anticipation from players and spectators alike is palpable.

Cal’s other former member of the U-19 Junior National Team, freshman Brynn Zorilla, has performed as advertised. The freshman has made an immediate impact on all sides of the field, breaking up plays defensively and initiating opportunities offensively, all while showing off her ballhandling wizardry. Zorilla possesses a unique poise and confidence, and she is shaping up to be a star for years to come.

Rodgers and Zorilla will try to get Cal back on track this weekend. The game looks like it will be a defensive battle from the start, as both teams have solid back lines and goalkeeper play. Whichever team can find a way to break through, either by converting a penalty corner or capitalizing on a miscue, will come out with the win.

Tim Sun covers field hockey. Contact him at [email protected].