Cal women’s soccer is set to return this season with a double feature against Oregon State and Oregon. The Bears kick off against both teams without home-field advantage and are hoping to improve upon their performances from a season ago — a season in which matchups with both of these opponents resulted in ties.
The blue and gold grace the field with fairly high expectations and positive attitudes during this unusual springtime return. Such an outlook from the onset may have to do with the fact that despite tying with both Oregon rivals, Cal ranked several places higher in the Pac-12 standings. At last season’s end, the Bears ranked No. 5, while the Beavers and the Ducks sat at No. 9 and No. 11, respectively.
Cal has not had the pleasure of participating in its normal season yet, during which the blue and gold would usually greet the Oregon teams near the end of the calendar year. With these games marking the start of the much-anticipated season, the Bears are anxious to pick up from where they left off in November 2019, the last time they suited up.
It is vital that the blue and gold get off to a hot start and bring home wins from Corvallis and Eugene; this road trip marks Cal’s return after a disheartening rescheduling of the fall season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Bears will play both Oregon State and Oregon once more at the end of March, which means this weekend can serve as a litmus test for Cal head coach Neil McGuire and his staff.
Friday marks the start of the Bears’ season. The Beavers arrive on the pitch nursing a 3-4 loss at the hands of Portland. The Ducks, however, will play Stanford, which sat atop the Pac-12 at the end of last season, before hosting Cal.
While scrimmage and practice have offered freshmen a taste of the collegiate soccer experience, it will be exciting to witness the Bears’ outstanding new recruits — who make up the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation — start making a name for themselves on the pitch. Beyond the freshmen, Cal’s roster oozes with talent across the board. The team’s senior class, which includes Emma Westin and Emily Smith, was ranked No. 3 nationally. Similarly, the sophomore class, which was ranked No. 8 nationally, should provide a solid foundation far beyond this weekend.
Standout players to watch out for this weekend include Smith and Angelina Anderson, who arrive at the season opener listed on the 2021 Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy Watch List. The award is given annually to the top male and female college soccer players, selected by members of United Soccer Coaches. Anderson adds this honor to her already impressive resume: As a freshman, the second-team All-American took home both Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.
The Bears are expected to shine this season, but as with most things these days, there also remains uneasiness due to the pandemic. Although the bleachers will not be ringing with the rival screams of cheering fans during either game this weekend, Cal is expected to bring the heat to the pitch in its long-awaited return.
Maria Khan covers women’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].