Oftentimes, lacrosse boils down to a game of runs. Teams erupt for periodic bursts of scoring, and look to keep opponents from doing the same. This is easier said than done.
Unfortunately, the Bears were not at the lucky end of those rallies this past weekend. After a victory over Fresno State, Cal dropped its Pac-12 openers against USC and Arizona State. A problem that has plagued the Bears throughout the young season has once again reared its ugly head: Cal could not keep the score close in the first half. Although the team has generally corrected this by playing better in the second half, Cal was unable to do so this weekend, losing the second period by scores of 8-5 against USC and 12-5 in its duel with ASU.
Against the Trojans, the Bears stumbled right out of the gate, falling into a 5-0 hole after USC attacker Ella Heaney scored four. The blue and gold never recovered, as the Trojans complemented their quick and aggressive defense — forcing 19 turnovers — with an ability to execute tough shots, as seen from the fact that 12 of their 18 goals were unassisted. USC got off many shots, and all three of its shots in the opening minutes were on goal. One of the shots was bound to find the inside of the net, and once it did, USC never looked back on its way to an 18-10 rout.
Although Cal’s game against ASU followed a similar script towards the end, it got off to a different start. The Bears’ offense operated largely behind the goal, as the Bears dodged and passed inside en route to a 5-2 lead. However, the Sun Devils adjusted, ripping off a 7-1 run to take a 9-6 halftime lead. While Cal once again struggled with turnovers, committing 16, Arizona State was able to work from behind the net and feed its passes inside to the open player to score. The Bears again could not mount a comeback, ultimately falling 21-11.
“They have a really good two-man play, where they have two people working together. One sets a pick on the ball, and that really tripped up the defense, so (the inside) either opened up for a drive or it opened up for a pop in the middle where they can feed it in, and they’re very good at it,” said head coach Brooke Eubanks.
A positive for Cal is that its draw control game has steadily improved throughout the season. Bears attacker Quinnlyn Mason praised freshman Kennedy Goss.
“(Goss) really stepped up and grinded it out in there for us. It’s just a matter of converting off of those draws,” Mason said.
Cal will need her to be on her A-game against Oregon and Colorado next week, two teams with powerhouse offenses. The Ducks have scored at least 12 goals in eight of their last nine meetings with the Bears, including a 22-goal outburst in 2018. Cal’s ability to secure draws will be paramount in keeping Oregon’s offense out of play.
The blue and gold’s road tilt against No. 27 Colorado, which will be televised on Pac-12 networks Monday, will see the Bears attempt to snap a six-game losing streak against the Buffaloes. Once again, controlling possession time through draws will be crucial, as Colorado has scored at least 15 goals in each game of their winning streak.
Mason knows that in order for the Bears to come out of the road trip victorious, they will need to change some things in practice.
“We’re really going to push it. We’re really going to work on fixing what we know we need to fix: turnovers, handling contact and then finishing on our eight-meters,” Mason said.
The Bears must make every practice count, or next week will be a long one.
Ali Fazal covers lacrosse. Contact him at afazaldailycal.org.