Fresh off road matchups with a trio of conference opponents, Cal women’s soccer makes its return to Edwards Stadium facing two of the hottest teams in the Pac-12 — No. 15 Colorado and Utah.
Already having matched its win total from last season, Colorado enters Berkeley ranked No. 3 in the Pac-12, behind Stanford and USC, and is one of three unbeaten teams in the nation.
Last season, the Bears earned a competitive 1-0 victory in Boulder, snapping a two-game losing streak against the Buffs, but in that game, Cal faced a very different Colorado team.
Statistically, the Buffaloes look to be the most balanced team in the country. Colorado leads the nation in assists (3.13) and points per game (8.87) this season while occupying the second spot in average goals per contest (2.87).
Redshirt senior Jorian Baucom and junior Tatum Barton make up the majority of Colorado’s offensive attack, accounting for more than half of the teams’ 43 total goals with 11 apiece.
At times, the Bears have handled pressure on their defensive third quite well, whether in brief spurts or throughout entire matches. On Thursday, they will have to lock down the Buffs’ elite scorers and not allow the opposition to build sustained offensive threats.
On the defensive side, the Buffs’ yield .506 goals per contest, largely because of the stellar play from both of the team’s goalkeepers — redshirt senior Scout Watson and redshirt junior Jalen Tompkins. Watson and Tompkins have combined for a 90.7 save percentage, which ranks sixth in the country.
As if defending the best offense in the Pac-12 wasn’t already enough, Cal has struggled to find the back of the net this season and faces an enormous challenge in cracking Colorado’s defensive line.
Of course, this is easier said than done.
The Bears will wrap up the weekend with yet another Rocky Mountain guest. While Utah hasn’t put up gaudy numbers like Colorado, the Utes have won their last four games against Pac-12 foes, including an overtime, home victory against then-No. 7 Washington State.
After beginning conference play 0-2, the four-game streak has propelled the Utes to fifth in the Pac-12. Utah seems to have figured things out defensively as well, outscoring opponents 7-0 in those four wins.
Cal won’t be the only team in this matchup coming off a tough game early in the weekend, however, as Utah will go on a complete tour of the Bay Area, kicking off its trip against Stanford. While a win will be hard to come by in the South Bay, this game will probably not be enough to knock the Utes out of their midseason form.
Regardless of that result, Utah comes to Berkeley presenting yet another defensive unit for the Bears to grapple with. The inability to finish in the offensive third has plagued the Bears all season long, but if they are able to break through in each of these games, they’ll have an opportunity to turn their season around.
Max Mennemeier covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].