Consistency — it’s what separates elite sports teams from mediocre ones. And so far this spring, the Cal women’s soccer team has been spotty, at best.
Well over halfway through the season, the Bears haven’t won back-to-back games since their opening weekend in the Beaver State. With an overall record of 4-3-1, Cal has proven itself capable of beating solid teams when it counts — including Stanford and Oregon — but typically falls short against opponents soon thereafter.
In spite of the inconsistency, star goalkeeper Angelina Anderson is optimistic that the Bears will soon turn the tide.
“It is frustrating when you’re unable to capitalize on conference games and then you’re able to win big-time nonconference games, like against Stanford,” Anderson said. “I know that’s something that our team is frustrated with, for sure. But, overall we’re a super talented team, we’re playing really good soccer. So I think it’s just about finding a way to get results that we really need, which is now super important.”
For its upcoming weekend matchups on the road, Cal will first face Arizona State this Friday at 7 p.m., followed by Arizona on Sunday at noon.
“ASU is a really good team this season. They’ve got some really big wins under their belt and I think we’re going to face a very well-organized, committed team,” Anderson said. “I think that this game is going to come down to small details, like it so often does.”
Currently ranked third in Pac-12, the Sun Devils are coming off a 2-1 victory against previously undefeated UCLA. With upperclassmen forwards Nicole Douglass, Olivia Nguyen and Olive Jones at the helm of its offense, Arizona State boasts one of the more lethal scoring units in the conference. Together, the three aforementioned players have combined for 14 of the Sun Devils’ 19 goals.
Similarly, Arizona plays best when keeping the ball high up the pitch. With the third-most goals scored in the Pac-12, 18 in all, the Wildcats are just two goals short of tying the season goal total of their rivals in Tempe. Though they’re 1-4-0 in conference play, Arizona is a formidable, offensively-minded opponent, and will likely keep Cal’s backline on its toes for every minute of action.
“They are a little bit different tactically,” Anderson said. “Arizona is coming at you with full fire and they are very good at what they do. So I think we are going to have to be really locked in.”
Against both Arizona teams, expect Cal to set an aggressive tempo right from kickoff, perhaps in the form of an attacking-minded formation with three or four forwards up top. Though the team couldn’t quite find the back of the net in its last game versus Oregon State, the Bears dominated the draw by taking a season-high 20 shots.
As in previous games, look for forwards Keely Roy and Emma Westin to lead Cal’s attack. The duo boast the first and second most shots on target this season for the Bears, respectively. To set them up, midfielder Paige Metayer and defender Kailee Gifford must play key roles in maintaining possession, pushing the ball past the halfway line and winning tackles.
As for the back line, the name of the game is staying patient and composed. By clearing the ball when necessary, Cal can stifle enemy attacks and ultimately keep the pressure off of Anderson.
“As a team, we really look to stick to our principles and think about us and how we can be the ones to do better, rather than fearing the other team’s strengths,” Anderson said. “We’ll always respect them, but we always want to commit to our principles, our tactical plan. If we do that, I really think we can beat any team.”
Ryan Chien covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].