It’s finally the beginning of Pac-12 play this weekend as Cal hosts Oregon and Colorado at Memorial Stadium. After ending nonconference play with a three-game winning streak, the Bears will look to keep rolling on and start off 2-0 in conference games.
First on the Bears’ schedule for the weekend is Oregon with a start time of 5 p.m. Friday. The Ducks are 2-3 going into conference play, one game under .500 — just like the Bears are. Both teams will be fighting not only to start conference play 1-0 but also to be at the .500 mark on the season.
Although Oregon has had a weaker schedule than the Bears, the match should be a close one, with both teams averaging roughly the same number of goals per game. Oregon is averaging 11.6 goals per game to Cal’s 11.4.
Oregon senior Shannon Williams has carried the offensive load for the Ducks with 27 points made up by 14 goals and 13 assists. The team’s next top scorers are freshmen Carlie Leach and Jamie Level, who boast 12 points each.
Even with two more games than the Ducks, the Bears don’t even have anyone close to Williams’ 27 points. Cal’s points leader is redshirt junior Kirsten Swanson with 20 points through seven games, so putting it in perspective, Williams has been a beast on the offensive end.
Stopping Williams will surely be a focus for Cal, but the team has seen what she can do already, considering that it plays Oregon every year.
“The great thing is we see them every year, so we’re familiar with the competition,” said Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks. “This makes it easy for us to refocus.”
The Bears will be hoping that the familiarity pays off and that they can keep the winning streak alive. If they should do so, their opportunity to extend the streak even further will come against Colorado on Sunday at noon.
The Buffaloes have had a rough start to their season, beginning the year 1-3. Their schedule has been as tough as it gets though, with all four games against ranked opponents. Because of this, it’s hard to tell just how good or bad this Colorado team really is. Colorado’s only victory this season was against Virginia Tech, who was ranked No. 14 in the nation at the time.
Similarly to Cal, Colorado lost to Michigan, but it was able to hold the Wolverines to almost half as many points. Cal let in 15 goals from Michigan, whereas Colorado only allowed eight. If this is any indicator, Colorado’s defense may be what Cal has to plan against if it hopes to take home the victory.
Senior attacker Miranda Stinson has led the way for the Buffaloes with 14 points and eight caused turnovers already this season. The Bears will have to key in on her to make sure she doesn’t dominate the field like she has been.
Colorado will have to face yet another ranked opponent before playing Cal, as it will take on No. 15 Stanford on Friday. If Colorado should beat Stanford and Cal beats Colorado, the Bears will have some early bragging rights over the rival school.
The Bears may not even be thinking about Colorado quite yet though with Oregon on the schedule first.
“We need to take it one game at a time,” Eubanks said.
This “one game at a time” approach is a lifestyle for the Bears, as they will hope to extend this winning streak one game at a time and go 2-0 in the first weekend of conference play.