Wave of Confidence Carrying Cal Into Weekend Series

Photo: <b>Senior Jacob Wilson</b> is expected to return to the Bears' lineup today after participating in full practices this week. The defender was injured in Cal's win over Air Force on Sept. 27.
Michael Restrepo/File
Senior Jacob Wilson is expected to return to the Bears' lineup today after participating in full practices this week. The defender was injured in Cal's win over Air Force on Sept. 27.

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The Cal men's soccer team is flying high these days. There's that No. 5 ranking. A perfect start in the Pac-10 with a win over Stanford. First place in the conference.

"We feel confident and strong," midfielder Hector Jimenez said. "We started our first game pretty well, and the team is looking good."

But now the real stretch of conference play starts. After having just one game last week, the Bears (7-2-0, 1-0-0 in the Pac-10) play host to Washington and Oregon State this weekend.

First up are the Huskies today at Edwards Stadium at 4 p.m. Washington (3-4-3, 0-0-2) may have been considered one of the middle teams of the conference before the start of the season, but its opening Pac-10 contests have served notice that it will be a major roadblock on the way to the title.

This past weekend the Huskies fought to a 1-1 tie with No. 4 UCLA after finishing a scoreless draw with San Diego State. Sitting right behind the Bruins in the rankings, Cal's players expect the same kind of challenges this afternoon.

"They are definitely a top team in the Pac-10," Jimenez said. "It will be a difficult game."

There are some unpleasant memories for Jimenez against Washington. In the penultimate game of last year's campaign, the midfielder's season was cut short on one ill-timed tackle by a Huskies defender. Despite the resulting inability to help his team's run in the playoffs, the junior -- currently third in the nation in assists -- isn't using it as motivation.

"There's no personal grudge at all," Jimenez said. "Score a goal, yeah, but if we get the win, I'll be happy with that."

One player with significantly better memories of his games against Washington is forward Andrew Wiedeman. The junior notched three goals against the Huskies last year, and if his current form is any indication, there is a definite threat of a repeat performance. Nine games into the season, the forward has scored as many goals, leading the conference both in goals and points.

It's that kind of production that has made the Cal offense one of the top 15 in the nation, which has prompted a certain adherence to routine.

"It's just the same old stuff (in practice)," Jimenez said. "Doing what we always do, and also keeping everybody healthy and in shape."

Bolstering the side is the probable return of defender Jacob Wilson, who participated in full practice this week.

Although Cal swept the Beavers with two shutouts in 2008, that seems unlikely to happen again Sunday at 2 p.m. Oregon State looks to have benefited from its coaching change in the offseason, beating San Diego State this past weekend.

Perhaps the most drastic change has been the increase in offensive production, led by reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Danny Mwanga. After struggling to score only 19 goals in as many games last year, the Beavers (5-3-2, 1-1-0) are on track to far exceed that mark, with 16 already in the books.


Contact Nicole Baudouin at [email protected]

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