Cal women’s field hockey takes on second straight ranked opponent

Karen Chow/Staff

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Ideal starts to a sports season — especially a Cal sports season — are hard to come by. Getting off to a slow start, however, means there’s plenty of time for teams to recover from a rocky beginning. A 1-1 start for the Cal women’s field hockey team may not be ideal, but it was to be expected after they began the season splitting their games against Quinnipiac and Northwestern last weekend.

Cal put away Quinnipiac 5-1 at home Friday before falling to No. 15 Northwestern 3-0 in a neutral site game at Stanford. Although a 2-0 start may have been Cal’s aim going into the weekend, the team still has some positives to pull from the matches as they continue the season.

After putting up an outstanding 29 shots against Quinnipiac, Cal’s offense struggled against Northwestern with just five shots. The Bears will be hoping to carry their dominant offensive performance from Friday into the season, while being able to correct the mistakes from Monday’s game that led to less opportunities for success.

Junior Maddie Cleat is leading the Bears’ offense thus far with two goals in hopes of continuing her goal-scoring ways as the season progresses. Last year’s scoring leader, junior Megan Rodgers, remains scoreless throughout Cal’s first two games — but it’s still too early for fans to be alarmed.

Next on the schedule for Cal is No. 7 Michigan. Michigan is also 1-1 this year, but has played against much tougher competition. Michigan started off their season Friday as well, but with a loss against No. 1 North Carolina.

The Wolverines have capitalized on their opportunities this season, with five goals on nine shots across two matches. Michigan senior Meg Dowthwaite is leading the way for the Wolverines with three goals in two matches, and will surely be a focus for the Cal defense.

Cal will be Michigan’s first unranked opponent of the season, as Michigan will also take on No. 21 Stanford today before heading to UC Berkeley on Sunday. Michigan’s strong schedule to start the season shouldn’t be taken lightly, and will have them more than prepared to face Cal.

Although the Bears caused problems for Northwestern, the team will likely see themselves dropping to 1-2 after hosting Michigan on Sunday — not an ideal start for a team looking to move toward a winning season. The last time the Bears began 1-2, however, was in 2017 when the team ended the year 9-8.

Cal goalkeeper Natalie Dalton has been strong so far this year, saving 14 shots. Her presence alone won’t be enough to carry the Bears though — the offensive spark that they saw against Quinnipiac will be necessary if they wish to have a chance against the Wolverines.

Rodgers will be looking to better herself against Michigan and find the net for the first time this season. After recording 13 goals last year, Rodgers should regain her footing soon and get back to her goal-scoring tendencies.

If Cal defeats Michigan, it would be an upset that just might ascend Cal to the next level this season. The Bears could prove themselves with this game, but if they lose, they should hold their heads high and aim to bounce back quickly against Iowa.

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