After a tough scrimmage against the English national team, head coach Brooke Eubanks and Cal lacrosse will start the season with two home games against Michigan and Denver.
Both the Wolverines and the Pioneers finished last season with better records than Cal, so the Bears will have tough obstacles to overcome on their way to a 2-0 start.
“It’s really an extra focus on yourself. … It’s about pushing the tempo during practice, not taking breaks and keeping accountable,” Eubanks said. “With a difficult nonconference schedule, it’s going to prepare us that much more for conference because our conference play is pretty tough.”
Michigan ranked 30th last season in defense, and Denver was even better at No. 20, which means getting the ball into the net will be no easy task this weekend for Cal — the team ranked 94th in scoring last season. The Bears’ ability to focus on their own game may be the answer to these tough defenses.
Cal’s offense will be led by senior Caroline Corzel as well as redshirt juniors Eliza Christman and Kirsten Swanson, who are all captains this season. They’ll hope that team chemistry and experience building over from last season can help them to be more efficient offensively this weekend and going forward, as the team only averaged 13.17 points per game last year.
With many starters returning on the offensive end, the Bears should be able to improve on scoring and will look to net more goals against both Michigan and Denver this weekend.
“This is definitely the strongest our team has been since I’ve been a part of the program,” Swanson said about what will take this team to the next level. “People are working harder this year than we ever have.”
Swanson’s high praise for the team’s hard work ethic and optimism about the team’s ability to succeed this year should have Cal fans everywhere excited for the opening weekend. Michigan is first on Cal’s schedule, and the game will begin at 5 p.m. this Friday, likely in the rain.
Although Michigan finished with a better record than Cal last year, Cal’s 97th placed goals per game was surprisingly higher than Michigan, which ranked at 100th. Michigan will surely improve this season though, as 11 members of the team’s starting 12 are returning for the 2019 season.
Cal is coming off of a scrimmage against the English national team on Jan. 24 that the Bears used as a learning experience to prepare for the regular season.
“It was definitely a wake-up call,” Christman said about the scrimmage. “But having the ability to come onto the field and play as a group before the seasons started is obviously super helpful.”
This weekend will test just how much the team learned from the English national team, especially against Denver on Sunday. Denver wasn’t quite able to make the preseason top-20 team rankings, but they were one of only four other teams receiving votes to be ranked.
Denver will also begin its season Friday, against Cal’s rival Stanford, so if the Pioneers are victorious Friday, Cal will have even more to play for, with potential bragging rights over Stanford.
Cal will square off against Denver on Sunday at noon, and it will likely be raining for this home game as well.
“Our main goal is to win a Pac-12 championship this year,” Swanson said. A 2-0 start to this season would surely help the team’s chemistry and prepare the players for conference play, leading them to conquer that season goal.