In what may have felt like the blink of an eye, Cal women’s soccer has headed off to Washington for its final road trip of the 2018 season. For a team that has been struggling as of late, Thursday night’s match against Washington State and Sunday afternoon’s against Washington have the potential to end the season on a high note.
Sitting third from the bottom in the Pac-12, the Bears, who were predicted to finish fourth in the conference in the preseason coaches’ poll, certainly head into the weekend with something to prove. On paper, both Washington State and Washington appear to be beatable opponents, falling just above Cal in the Pac-12 standings, with nine and six points, respectively, to Cal’s four.
In their last match against the Utes, the Bears were just a hair short of recording a pivotal conference victory but were unable to put together a late-game rally, ultimately falling 2-1. They took the 1-0 lead to the locker room at the half, but back-to-back Utah goals just after the start of the second period proved to be the difference.
The team has been focused on retaining possession throughout the season, and in that regard, it has largely succeeded. In terms of scoring, however, the Bears have not been able to create opportunities as adeptly as they have in years past, having been outshot by opponents 214-183 on the season.
“We feel like our performance in possession has been good,” Cal head coach Neil McGuire said. “We have to tidy up what we do inside the 18-yard boxes, both defensively and offensively, and today’s practice was very good in that regard.”
Despite showing promise early in the season, Washington State heads into Thursday’s match riding a five-game losing streak. None of those losses, however, have been by more than two goals. On top of that, an early-season victory against Pac-12 powerhouse No. 8 UCLA proves that the Cougars should not be written off too quickly.
Washington has had similar struggles, currently sporting its own five-game losing streak, and it is set to face No. 1 Stanford before meeting Cal on Sunday. That said, the Huskies have done an exceptional job of setting themselves up this year, averaging more than 16.5 shots per game.
Both sides of the ball will be tested in this series for the Bears, and offensively they’ll look to junior forward Abi Kim, who, after scoring against Utah, usurped the team lead in goals from sophomore forward Emma Westin. Kim now has five on the year to Westin’s four.
“From start to finish, our team has really fought all season,” McGuire said. “You know, the breaks haven’t gone our way, there have been some areas that we clearly have to get better in, but I’m very proud of the players for the fight and the grit that they show, and this should be no different. Washington and Washington State are two great programs, two great coaches, and we’re looking forward to the battle.”