Showdown in Stockton: No. 6 Cal to square off against No. 17 Pacific

Brianna Luna/Staff

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Saturday’s meeting between No. 6 Cal and No. 17 Pacific will be a clash of in-state opponents with similarly generic mascots. The Bears — tied for college sports’ fifth most common mascot — will look to improve to 18-0 all-time over the hosting Tigers, the second-most common.

The blue and gold will look to bounce back from their most recent game, a 10-6 loss at the hands of Stanford.

Cal head coach Coralie Simmons expects her team to have a strong first quarter in this weekend’s game.

“We need to get off to good starts. And for that matter, if we get good starts, then we can have easier finishes,” Simmons said. “So I’m really looking for the team to respond early in the game, to capitalize and settle in on the defensive end.”

Lethargic first quarters have been a trend for the Bears this season. While Cal has beaten formidable opponents like No. 5 UC Irvine and No. 9 Michigan en route to a 6-4 record through its first 10 games, slow starts have nearly cost Cal a number of games. The Bears have led at the close of the first quarter in just one of their ten games to this point in the 2020 campaign.

With that being said, the blue and gold have done an admirable job of clawing back and winning games after facing early deficits. In both its wins against Michigan, Cal trailed 4-1 but rallied to knock off one of the nation’s best programs.

This ability to get back in games is a testament to the leadership of juniors Brigit Mulder and Claire Sonne, who have been two of the Bears’ most consistent players to this point. Among players in the MPSF, Mulder ranks fourth in goals and first in assists. Sonne, meanwhile, is tied for seventh and alone in fourth in those categories.

Veteran guidance from those two has been necessary, as Cal has an exceedingly young group this year. Ten of the 26 players on the Bears’ roster are freshmen.

The Tigers, on the other hand, have started the season with a 2-3 record. Pacific — which is coming off of a blowout loss against No. 19 Indiana — will be looking for an upset victory over Cal, which would be its first in program history.

Junior Savannah Fitzgerald leads Pacific in scoring with 16 goals. The next most prolific scorer on the team has six goals, so it’s no secret who leads the Tigers’ offense. Fitzgerald is also tied for second on the team in assists, of which she has three.

When these two teams duked it out last season, Cal came out on top by a score of 15-11. Mulder found the back of the cage once, but for the most part the Bears’ offense came from players who aren’t with the team this year either because they’ve graduated or they’re training with their respective national teams. 

With that being said, a victory is certainly still the expected result when Cal faces Pacific. The Bears perennially sit among the nation’s top 10 teams, if not its top five. Even in years with great turnover, wins are still the expectation.

The two teams may have generic mascots, but don’t let that prevent you from tuning in at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday as Cal visits Stockton for what should be its seventh win of the season.

Ethan Moutes covers women’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected]