Last week the Bears seemed unbeatable as they took on the Weber State Wildcats at Edwards Stadium. The team controlled the game, racking up goals with the Wildcats floundering on offense, and it seemed like a different team than the one that closed out last season — stronger both defensively and offensively and ready for a push into the postseason.
But it’s still early in the season, and the Bears know to take it one game at a time. This young team will continue to focus on their own improvement.
Playing away from home will be a completely different challenge. The Bears will hope to keep up the momentum from last week’s 5-0 victory against the Wildcats as they prepare for their first away games this weekend at UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State.
Last week, against the Wildcats, the team’s offense seemed to be clicking on every level. The Bears were up by four goals at the half and finished the game with a score of 5-0. Still, the team knows to expect more of a challenge on offense moving forward, with things being especially tough on the road.
On the defensive side, the Bears stifled the Wildcats’ offense, showing signs of improvement since last season when the young team struggled to hold opponents at bay. With only three shots, none of which were on target, the Wildcats’ struggles may say more about their poor offense than they do about Cal’s defense.
The Bears will undoubtedly be challenged more this weekend and will hope that their defense can hold. The team is very familiar with its first opponents, the Gauchos. The two teams’ last meeting was a year ago in Bear territory when the Gauchos found the net in overtime, sealing the game with a 3-2 victory.
During that game, the Bears came out strong in the first half and then fizzled out as the game continued. Both of their goals, scored by junior Emma Westin and senior Abi Kim, came in the first 45 minutes. The Gauchos picked up the tempo in the second half, evening the game, and ultimately scoring the final goal in the 96th minute.
This game came on the third game of a three-game homestand for the Bears, and the Gauchos snapped the team’s win streak at two.
Last year, the Bears came out victorious against their second opponents of this weekend’s road trip, the San Diego State Aztecs. Playing at home, Cal took an early lead when Kim scored in the fourth minute, the quickest the Bears had scored in the last two seasons. Kim assisted on the second goal of the half to junior Luca Deza, putting the Bears up 2-0 at the half. Although the Aztecs continued to battle, scoring in the 67th minute, the Bears were able to add another goal in the second half. The Aztecs ultimately fell short 3-1 in a game that Cal dominated in shots 14-6 and corner kicks 6-4.
At this early point in the season, the young team is looking to take everything one match at a time and work on playing its own game. Although the team is happy with what they saw last week, there is still a long way to go if the Bears want to compete in the postseason. Their play this weekend will likely tell a lot about Cal’s strengths and weaknesses as a team as they compete in enemy territory for the first time this season.
Still, last week’s dominant victory against Weber State — including Deza’s first multi-goal game of her career, Westin’s scoring, and sophomore Paige Metayer and redshirt sophomore Denae Antoine adding goals of their own — showed a lot of promise for the Bears. They will do their best to maintain this level of success as they take on new challenges this weekend.
Akshara Majjiga covers women’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].