Like a class in which the final exam clobbers any bad midterm scores, the America East Field Hockey Championships are here, and the Cal field hockey team has the chance to put its 5-11 regular season behind it this weekend across the Bay at Stanford.
Even after disappointing showings in both conference and nonconference play, Cal is still in control of its own destiny.
“Nothing matters now of what we did previously,” senior co-captain Janaye Sakkas said. “All that matters is that we win this conference. So if we go all out and we win (the conference), nothing matters — all these losses don’t matter — and then we’ll be into the NCAAs.”
Action kicks off today with a matchup against Maine (14-4), which comes into the tournament ranked No. 18 nationally after a second-place finish in the east division of the America East Conference. The Black Bears boast a high-powered offense that ranks No. 4 in the nation with 3.78 goals per game.
Senior midfielder Casey Crowley sets the pace for Maine. The America East Conference Midfielder of the Year leads the Black Bears with 10 goals and six assists. Along with Crowley on the All-Conference team are fellow seniors Libby Riedl and Samantha Wagg, who have combined for another 17 goals and six assists.
Defensively, the Black Bears are anchored by freshman goalkeeper Mia Borley, who has registered four shutouts on the season and surrenders just 1.33 goals per game.
Despite Maine’s record, the team has shown some signs of slowing down in recent games. The Black Bears have lost two of their last three games, and the lone victory was by a single goal in double overtime against the last-place team in the division, UMass Lowell.
The Golden Bears have some history with the Black Bears, as Cal defeated Maine twice during the 2016 campaign, with the second win coming in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Eight of the 11 starters from that 3-2 quarterfinal victory are still on the roster for Cal. Katrina Carter scored once in both matchups against Maine that season, and Danielle Mentink recorded eight saves in the tournament win.
The rest of the bracket features Cal’s western foes Stanford, Pacific and UC Davis, along with eastern division teams Albany, Vermont and New Hampshire. With a win today, the Bears would face off with Stanford on Saturday.
Coming after back-to-back losses, the fresh start will be a welcome sight for the Bears. And even with recent defeats, the past few games have provided promising developments, as Carter has scored in three of the past four games, and five different players have scored Cal’s last seven goals.
“We’re pretty balanced, and we’re scoring goals with more than just Megan (Rodgers),” head coach Shellie Onstead said. “All of that means that teams have to contend with us all around.”
Cal has also witnessed its own potential, as the Bears have displayed high-energy play that has resulted in success, albeit in short spurts. This weekend, the key will be to sustain these synergies.
“I think when we play off each other, we’re an unstoppable team,” senior co-captain Melina Moore said. “(We need to) just be able to be confident in each other and in our own ability.”