Cal field hockey seeks to flip the script over long road trip

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Road trips can be both exciting and exhausting, as has been the case for the Cal field hockey team.

After already having spent two weekends in Kentucky and Illinois squaring off against top-tier talent, the Bears are set to travel to New York for their third and final road doubleheader, against Boston College and Syracuse.

Cal entered both of its previous road trips with high levels of optimism, as head coach Shellie Onstead believed her team was capable of competing with the nation’s best. The Bears, however, left both without a single victory.

In Kentucky, Cal improved after a loss to then-No. 2 North Carolina to control a close contest against then-No. 11 Louisville, but ultimately lost a heartbreaker in overtime. The story was the same in Illinois: The Bears gave a strong performance, but could not get a win against either then-No. 13 Iowa or then-No. 14 Northwestern.

This weekend, the Bears hope to flip the script against No. 8 Boston College (7-3) and No. 13 Syracuse (6-4), but it won’t be easy. The Eagles and the Orange are ranked for a reason, as both teams have held their opponents to less than 15 percent shooting, and both starting goalies rank in the top 20 in save percentage.

Boston College’s defense is particularly stingy. The Eagles have surrendered just 1.1 goals per game and have posted five shutouts already this season. The starting backfield of Frederique Haverhals, Sky Caron and Eva Van de Mierop tends to play the large majority of each game, and gives up just 8.5 shot attempts per contest.

On offense, the Eagles boast a balanced attack: 13 different players have scored the team’s 29 goals, with four players scoring at least four goals each. Boston College’s top scorers also possess the innate ability to execute, as forwards Brooke Matherson and Elizabeth Warner get 88.2 and 85.7 percent of their shots on goal, respectively.

For Syracuse, everything revolves around senior backfielder Roos Weers, a First Team All-American and three-time All-ACC selection. Weers anchors a defense that holds opponents to 1.6 goals per game, but the senior also impresses in the attacking third, tying for the team lead in points, with five goals and two assists.

Sophomore forward Chiara Gutsche also paces the Orange offense, scoring six goals on 28.6 percent shooting.

In terms of common opponents, Cal and Boston College have both faced Maryland, Northwestern and Louisville, and both teams lost all three matchups. Syracuse has beaten Pacific and fallen to North Carolina, two teams which defeated Cal.

While the competition will be tough, the Bears do have the talent to knock off these teams. Cal’s defense remains steadfast and the offense is capable of generating opportunities, but the Bears will need to focus for 70 minutes to get the win. If the defense holds for most of the game and the offense capitalizes on breakaways and penalty corners, the Bears may come away with their first victory against a ranked opponent and cap off their final road trip with at least one win.

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