New players, new opponents and a new year for field hockey bring a sense of excitement to UC Berkeley as the Bears open the field hockey season with the goal of improving upon last year’s performance. After a disappointing 2018, Cal field hockey will be hosting Quinnipiac on Friday with hopes to come away with a victory and a confident start to the 2019 season.
Cal has nine freshmen on its 27-player roster, meaning a third of the Bears will be fresh faces to the fans. The Cal faithful should be excited to see what these new players can contribute to Cal and to get an early glimpse of the field hockey team’s future.
The Bears ended the 2018 season with a first-round playoff exit in the America East Championships. Cal finished 5-12, a surprising downfall after having a winning 9-8 record just one year before.
Cal will have home field advantage in its season opener, as the opposing Quinnipiac will be traveling a long way from its home in Connecticut. The Bears will have a comfortable start to the 2019 season, as they don’t have to leave the Bay Area for any of their first three matches.
The game at Underhill Field will be the first of the season for both teams, and given that the Bobcats went 7-10 last season, it should be a relatively even matchup. Both sides will be eager to turn their misfortunes from last year around, and this season opener carries weight for both Quinnipiac and Cal.
Last season, forward Megan Rodgers led the way for Cal with a team high of 13 goals, eight more than alumna Melina Moore. Fans should expect Rodgers, now entering her junior year, to be even more dominant as she will likely be aiming to improve upon what was already a stellar performance in 2018.
The good news keeps on rolling for the Bears, as senior backfielder Femke Delissen is also returning for Cal, meaning that both the top scorer and top shot creator from last season will be back in action together. Delissen led the Bears in assists in 2018, finding open teammates to set up five goals throughout her 14 appearances.
Senior midfielder Gabi Jimenez is also going to be a player to watch when the 2019 campaign kicks off at Underhill; she is the only returner who started all 17 games for the Bears last season. Jimenez, Rodgers and Delissen’s chemistry together should come in handy considering a third of the Bears roster is new. If those veterans can avoid injury, their experience together may pay dividends.
Cal was outscored by opponents 43-29 last season, a wide margin that the team will be looking to cut down on. Quinnipiac’s goal differential was, however, even worse, as they were outscored 57-32 last season. The Bears should be optimistic about netting goals against the weaker defensive side that the Bobcats showed themselves to be last season.
Forward Brooke Whipkey led Quinnipiac in goals last season with six scores and should be one of Cal’s main focuses on the defensive end. If they can shut her down and continue to put on pressure offensively, the Bears should have a good shot at starting the season 1-0.
If the Bears come out victorious, it will be the second year in a row that they start the season with a win, although Cal will certainly hope that the rest of 2019 does not mirror their last campaign. A win on Friday will be a real morale boost for a Bears field hockey team looking to turn things around in a new season.