With midterm season approaching, Cal field hockey breaks a sweat as well as it enters conference play with key matchups against Albany and Bryant. After taking an 11-day hiatus from playing games, fans will truly see if the Bears did their studying.
The first meeting will feature a Great Danes team (5-2) on a four-game win streak against the Bears (1-5), who are looking to start a streak of their own. Albany is fresh off a shutout victory against Yale, putting eight shots on net while only allowing its opponent to take three.
Cal enters Friday’s matchup having last played Sept. 11, losing 6-1 and allowing 16 shots on net. The Bears only recorded one shot on net throughout the entire game, leaving a sour taste in their mouth at the end of the homestand.
Despite the drastic difference in last games played by Cal and Albany, these two teams have historically been fairly evenly matched, each holding a 1-1 record versus one another. Both games took place in 2021 as the Bears snatched the 3-1 victory in April and the Great Danes walked away with a 2-1 overtime win on Halloween.
This upcoming matchup in New York will spotlight some familiar faces in a similar environment, including Cal’s Sara Stone and Albany’s Alison Smisdom. Stone’s crucial assist in the first game win for the Bears set the tone after only a minute and a half of play. In the second game taken by the Great Danes, Smisdom tallied both goals and scored the deciding shot that won her team the game after the end of regulation.
Fans can expect to see a close game on Friday afternoon on the East Coast, elevated by the stakes at hand and potential for position changes in the America East Conference standings.
Sunday morning’s contest at Lennon Family Field foregrounds what should be a high-scoring contest between Bryant (4-4) and Cal. The Bears cross paths with another team in the midst of a win streak, looking to hand the Bulldogs a loss after three straight wins prior to this showdown.
Bryant’s start to the season was not quite ideal, receiving three straight losses before recording a victory. The Bulldogs bounced back in game four of the season with a 2-1 win, only to be handed their fourth loss three days later.
Bryant’s quick turnaround after a 1-4 start to a .500 record is a clear example of the change in course Cal needs to revamp its season trajectory. The Bulldogs are the team for the Bears to play, even though Bryant has had great success at home, as Cal holds a 2-0 record in two shutout games. The Bears outscored the Bulldogs for a 13-0 goal differential in these appearances, looking to build upon this momentum from years prior.
Cal will need some more help from its defense to keep the team in close games and set up the offense in key situations. In the Bears’ past two games, the defense has conceded 13 goals on 35 shots on net, while also yielding 27 penalty corners to their opponents. More pressure of Albany’s and Bryant’s offense early on as well as adjustments made in the backfield will take a load off Cato Knipping’s plate and keep the ball on the opponent’s side of the field.
An end of the week sweep on the East Coast is pivotal for Cal before the team returns home in a week’s time. This would put the Bears in prime striking position against the last place Aggies and make a statement in the conference standings.
The blue and gold must not count their chickens before they hatch, instead needing to bear down and stay focused in the present to avoid distraction from the task at hand: winning high-stakes matchups.