Cal Goes From Hard Loss to Harder Opponent

Bears Look to Bounce Back From Last Week's Last-Minute Loss Against No. 7-Ranked Michigan

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After suffering a heart-wrenching 4-3 loss last Friday to Miami of Ohio, one would think that the Cal field hockey team would want an easy victory to lift its spirits.

Well, the team might want the easy win, but coach Shellie Onstead certainly doesn't.

"I looked at our schedule a year ago and thought that this would be the perfect match for this point in the season," Onstead said. "I want to play the Big Ten right now, I want to play a top-10 team right now. We're still missing a couple of people, but we're better off than we were a week ago. I'm just excited."

The Bears (0-1) return to Maxwell Family Field to take on No. 7 Michigan State (2-0) at 2 p.m., today. Today's match is the second game of the Bears' three-game homestand to open up the 2010 season.

The Spartans pose perhaps the most formidable threat that Onstead's squad will see all season. Aside from the ACC, the Big Ten might be the pre-eminent field hockey conference in the nation. Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa are all ranked in the top-20.

Under the influence of Dutch head coach Rolfe van der Kerkhof, the Spartans bring a notable international presence to the field. Having brought players to East Lansing, Mich., from Belgium, British Columbia and his native Holland, van der Kerkhof has effectively instituted his disciplined, Dutch style of play, according to Onstead.

"(Michigan State) brings some quality foreign players," Onstead said. "They have a pretty well-structured system. They're going to be well-coached and they'll probably come out here expecting a win. I'm hoping to surprise them."

Sabine van den Assem and Joelle van Ierland, both products of the Netherlands, have recorded seven points between the two of them in the Spartans' opening two games. The formidable Dutch front will provide a significant challenge for a Cal defense that struggled in its opener against the Redhawks.

After appearing sprawled out during last week's game, Onstead shifted her focus to defense for this week's game, especially for a forceful front line like the Spartans possess.

"We worked a lot on defensive organization," Onstead said, "I think we got a lot more comfortable in our defense. We had to prepare all week for not having Lisa (Lohre), but she'll be back so that will be a nice little boost. She's our organizer."

The senior Lohre should provide stability for the back line. Conversely, a newcomer has jolted the offense.

British Columbia native Shannon Elmitt had a college debut that many dream about, tallying a goal and an assist in her first-ever game at the collegiate level.

So did Onstead expect such a productive performance from one of her newest players?

"That's the kind of performance I was hoping for, but you never know until they get here," Onstead said. "I guess she proved me right, which is nice."


Gabriel Baumgaertner is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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