Nicknamed the “Evergreen State,” Washington’s natural beauty is omnipresent. In and around the contours of the state’s massive volcanic mountains, rain sweeps over the lush forests like clockwork. As the torrential downpour softens, glimmering rays of sunshine peek out through the clouds — a cue for critters native to the region to emerge from the shadows of their dens.
But soon, the Bears will be in town. And they’re hungrier than ever for a feast.
On Thursday, Oct. 7, the Cal women’s soccer team will make its first stop in Seattle to face the University of Washington. It’ll then head southeast to Pullman to meet Washington State on Sunday, Oct. 10.
“There’s been kind of a newfound focus of taking care of details, the small little things, whether that’s just off-the-field accountability or on-the-field set pieces,” said junior goalkeeper Angelina Anderson. “Getting those things right is what ultimately is going to get us the victory.”
Eager to collect more wins, the Bears plan to step into the scene wreaking havoc and continuing a reign of terror on the road — a prevalent theme throughout their fall 2021 season. Though its overall record of 5-2-3 is a mixed bag, Cal boasts an undefeated away record of 3-0-0.
“Personally, I’ve always enjoyed playing on the road … It’s definitely a different kind of energy,” Anderson said. “You’re hyper focused, more like a business trip, because you’ve traveled to this location, you’re in your hotel room … You know that your focus is towards the game.”
In its last game away from Berkeley, the team battered Long Beach State in a 2-0 victory. At George Allen Field, the Bears were composed and patient in their passing. By playing its offense primarily through its playmaking midfielders, Cal picked apart the Beach’s defense player by player.
The Bears’ most recent game against Oregon State showed striking similarities. On Oct. 3, to the roar of a home crowd, Cal stood tall by finding openings and pouncing on botched plays from the Beavers’ defense. Should they execute their next two games the same way, the blue and gold will be in good shape.
“We were able to keep the ball longer, making it more difficult for them to use their counterattack,” said head coach Neil McGuire on Oregon State. “When you take away one of their strengths, it does help you create more goal-scoring chances.”
Another determining factor to the Bears’ potential success will be their back line. Steady fixtures, like seniors Sydney Collins and Abena Aidoo as well redshirt senior Emily Smith have anchored Cal’s defense all season long. But in the occasional times that the defense has lapsed, opponents have been quick to capitalize with goals.
The University of Washington, however, has struggled to light up the scoreboard this season. Having yet to beat an opponent by more than a goal, the Huskies are stuck near the basement of the Pac-12 with a conference record of 0-1-2. In their last game, the team tied Utah at one goal apiece in a double overtime draw.
But while wins for UW have been few and far between, Washington State’s season has been just the opposite. Tied with USC as the top women’s soccer team in the Pac-12, the Cougars champion an overall record of 9-1-1. Averaging just over two and a half goals per game, their most notable victory came against the University of Hawaii, in which they shut out the Rainbow Wahine 7-0.
Should Cal emerge victorious this week, it’ll undoubtedly cement itself in the upper echelons of the Pac-12. Fresh off of a win and undefeated on the road, the Bears are now hungry to build upon their success. The ultimate question then is whether the home teams can defend their den — a point of pride in protecting the state and all of its natural beauty.
Ryan Chien covers women’s soccer and is a deputy sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].