The start we expected from Cal field hockey

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Sports are unpredictable. Expecting the unexpected seems to be the safest thing to do as a fan when putting your faith into a team, especially if that team is Cal. However, sometimes the chips all fall where they should and the predicted results are exactly what you get, which was the case for Cal field hockey.

The Bears went 1-1 over Labor Day weekend, defeating Quinnipiac on Friday and then falling to No. 15 Northwestern just three days later. The start mirrors that of last year for the Cal squad, as the Bears kicked off their 2018 season 1-1 as well, also falling to a ranked opponent in their second match.

Cal started its 2019 season at home against Quinnipiac, a game that Cal would go on to win 5-1 in a dominant performance. The Bears offense seemed unstoppable, recording 29 shots against the Bobcats. Getting more shots on goal was a focus for the Bears this year.

“It’s been a huge emphasis in our preseason to get the numbers up so our percentages go up and generate more shots. That’s not something you just talk about. You have some systems to help you finish that,” said head coach Shellie Onstead. “They just really embraced it, and then once they got some momentum going, it was really fun to watch. They got a lot from the crowd here tonight. This was probably our best opener in many years.”

Cal forward Megan Rodgers had nine shots, six of which were on target, but she was unable to capitalize on any of those opportunities against Quinnipiac. Rodgers led the Bears in scoring last season, so a goalless night from her in a game where the Bears put five shots in the back of the net is surprising.

“She (Rodgers) is so mad — you can expect an explosion,” said Onstead. “She’ll hold herself to a higher standard in future games … there will be some more goals incoming.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Rodgers and the Bears offense, as the team went scoreless on Monday against Northwestern. The Wildcats won the game 3-0, recording 18 shots against Cal’s defense in the neutral-site game at Stanford.

After recording a booming 29 shots against Quinnipiac, Cal’s offense struggled deeply against Northwestern, recording only five shots. The surprises didn’t stop there; Rodgers didn’t take a single one of those five shots for Cal, an out-of-character from the junior scoring machine.

Cal junior Maddie Cleat has stepped up as the Bears leading scorer through the first two matches this season after recording two goals against Quinnipiac. Senior Lindsay Mathison, freshman Megan Connors, and sophomore Makaela Hoang also recorded one goal each for the Bears over the weekend.

The blue and gold will have a lot to think about as they learned both how well and how poorly they can perform in just a matter of three days. Cal will have the opportunity to bounce back this Sunday against Michigan.

Jack Whaley is the assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @_jackdouglas_.