The game has its ebbs and flows, its crashing attacks and relaxing doldrums. Watching a football match is like watching the Pacific from the edge of Highway 1. It is unreadable and beautiful, and a change of seasons can bring storms or sunshine.
The Cal women’s soccer team is not ensnared in a full-blown tempest, but it has been through a cold stretch of its own. The Bears’ offense was shut out twice by Washington and Washington State, losing two close 1-0 matches. Cal had its share of chances to score, but ultimately no Bear was able to convert a finish.
“A coach can always look at moments that could have been the deciding factor,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire. “That’s what it takes at this level — you’re going to have to make sure you execute in front of goal.”
The Bears will have an opportunity to spark their offense as they face two teams that were the soft underbelly of a menacing Pac-12 last year — Oregon went 3-8 in conference play in 2018, while Oregon State won one match against Cal and lost their 10 remaining Pac-12 games. This season, however, both schools have shown flashes of promise and will not be counted out by McGuire and the Bears.
The unranked Ducks are tied for last in the Pac-12, but the Bears will head north with their guard up. Oregon has been held winless in conference play thus far, losing two games and drawing one against Pac-12 opposition. The Ducks are 4-3-4 on the year, but they will be limping into their fourth conference match after a 2-0 away loss to Utah.
The underwhelming record may be deceiving, however the Ducks have played all of their Pac-12 matches on the road and their loss to the Utes was the first time they had been shut out all season.
The Ducks’ homegrown product Jordan Wormdahl leads the team with six goals in the nine games that she’s played in, while midfielder Zoe Hasenaur has started every match for Oregon, bagging 3 goals and 4 assists. A return to Eugene and a home crowd could turn the tide for the Ducks when they play Cal on Thursday, and the Bears won’t expect a win to come easy.
Thirty-odd miles away, the also-unranked Oregon State has a formidable 9-1-1 season record — but underneath the hood, they are a modest 1-1-1 against Pac-12 teams.
The Beavers have also played all of their games away from home, but they have weathered the road slightly better than the Ducks and will come in on a high note. Oregon State pulled off a 2-1 upset win over then-No. 17 Colorado last Sunday, which dropped the Buffaloes from the rankings this week.
The Beavers’ 25 team goals are good for fifth-most in the Pac-12 — the forward duo of McKenzie Weinert and Brianna McReynolds have combined for twelve goals and seven assists. Oregon State won a 2-1 contest with Cal at home last year, but are 3-10-1 all-time against Cal — the Bears aim to make that second number 11 this Sunday.
Despite the two losses at home, Cal showed marked offensive improvement in their match against No. 15 Washington State. Though Luca Deza was undoubtedly the Bears’ catalyst in midfield last Sunday, fellow midfielder and Cal top scorer Emma Westin could step up this weekend.
The Swedish international has not scored since Sept. 15, but she came agonizingly close against the Cougars in the 75th minute when her powerful header was kept out by Ella Dederick. Westin’s exceptional stamina and physicality allow her to be a true box-to-box presence — she could play a lead role as the Bears look to regain their form one game at a time.
“Our hope when we start every match is that we’re looking to win,” said McGuire. “Our focus is going to be our first match and we won’t focus on anything beyond that.”
Catch Cal on the Pac-12 networks when they take on Oregon on Thursday at 7 p.m. and Oregon State on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Chanun Ong covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].