From Chapel Hill to Underhill, North Carolina travels to UC Berkeley for the first time to play against Cal, even though these teams have met in the past. The Bears look up from the base of a mountain at the tall task at hand: beating an undefeated Tar Heels squad, having never scored a goal against them in three former appearances.
The weekly Friday game brings a top team to town to face off against Cal: No. 2 North Carolina. Let’s delve into what can be expected from this team.
The history: Looking for their first win against the Tar Heels, the Bears go into this fourth matchup 0-3 without putting a single goal on the board. A whopping 11-0 goal differential separates UNC and Cal.
Their last meeting took place in 2018, exactly four years and one day before they’re set to meet again, where North Carolina won 6-0 and scored four penalty corner goals, an element of play Cal has struggled with executing as of late.
The game plan: This is a blue and gold team coming off a tough loss against Indiana in overtime. The Bears are looking to bounce back in a big way and start a winning streak to carry them to another playoff berth in the America East Conference championships for a second consecutive year.
A first period goal could be exactly what the Bears need to jumpstart the offense against North Carolina and carry the momentum to the end for a victory. Fans have only seen this happen once in the first four games, which led Cal to its first and only win to this point.
The Bears need to get the ball to their accurate shooters with higher shots on goals to give them more opportunities to score. Consider this: Monica Arteaga has a 1.000 shot-on-goal percentage, having taken only two shots that were both on net and resulting in a goal; Kiki de Bruijne has a 0.538 SOG% with 13 attempted shots, resulting in no goals. These are just two examples that demonstrate how close Cal’s offense is to clicking and putting all the pieces of the puzzle into place.
One key aspect to the Tar Heels’ success so far this season is that they shoot a lot — and with impeccable accuracy. Cal will need to polish its defense and keep North Carolina in the backfield to prevent them from maneuvering to the shooting lane.
If the Bears cannot extinguish the fiery offense of the whole team, they will want to make UNC forward Erin Matson, who leads the team in many important categories, the center of attention. Most notably, Matson has scored the highest number of goals on the squad with five of her 20 shots on goal finding the net.
Score prediction: With how the matchup looks to be shaping up, the numbers and the trends thus far seem to favor a North Carolina win. All the right pieces are in place, the offense is firing on all cylinders and the Tar Heels are 4-0 while the Bears find themselves at 1-3 this season. However, a first period goal for Cal increases their chances of a win based on this team’s grit and momentum-building capabilities, of which fans have just seen the tip of the iceberg on display in 2022.
No matter the outcome of this game, the Bears will be heading in the right direction for upcoming contests as each result serves as a learning opportunity early on in the season of how to get better. It can only go uphill from here for the blue and gold.