Match With Stanford Packs a Bigger Punch This Year for Cal

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Coach Neil McGuire said he has focused on consistency in preparing the Cal women's soccer team.

"We're taking the same approach we've taken to every game," he said of Saturday's game against Stanford.

But between the weight of the rivalry, and the challenge of taking on the best team in the country, this weekend's match-up is, even in McGuire's own words, "an entirely different animal."

If Cal can pull off its third Pac-10 win this weekend, it would be the Cardinal's first loss since the NCAA championship against North Carolina last December.

The Bears will need something above and beyond to achieve that victory. They will be working to break down a defense that has only allowed 10 goals this season. Cal's efforts will be hindered without the team's co-captain, Alex Morgan, who has 14 of the Bears' 37 goals in 2010.

But Stanford will have their own senior superstar in Christen Press, who has scored 19 times and assisted seven goals this season.

The Cardinal's offense isn't dependent on the senior responsible for more than half their scores, however. Teresa Noyola and Lindsay Taylor have racked up an impressive eight goals each, and 47 of the Cardinal's 51 goals have been assisted.

"Clearly Stanford has more weapons than most teams," McGuire said. "Stanford can attack you from a lot of different spots on the field."

Cal, which has allowed as many goals in the Pac-10 as Stanford has for the entire season, could be especially vulnerable to the Cardinal's potent attack.

"Although our season hasn't been to the best of maybe what we wanted it to be, we've still been really close," Bears senior McKenna McKetty said. "We have more than the potential to be able to beat Stanford and to do the things we need to do to end that perfect record for them."

The last time Cal lived up to that potential was a 1-0 victory in 2006. In the second round of the 2007 NCAA tournament, the Bears pulled off a tie thanks to then-freshman Morgan's late-game goal. That game ended with Stanford advancing in penalty kicks.

Cal will be missing Morgan, but its young talent has proved capable of producing offense in her absence. Sophomore Lauren Battung has scored six goals and assisted four, while freshman Emi Lawson, typically a defender, is falls just behind Battung with three scores.

An upset is unlikely, but the drive of a rivalry can sometimes produce unpredictable results.

"It's always a pretty crazy game, Stanford-Cal is always a big rivalry," McKetty said. "In soccer especially, we take it even more to heart."

She added, "But it's just like any other game, you can't really let those things get in the way."

The Bears need to be careful not to let the pressure get to them, but against a team like Stanford, treating the match like any other game might not cut it.

Tags: ALEX MORGAN, CAL WOMEN'S SOCCER, NEIL MCGUIRE


Alex Matthews covers women's soccer. Contact her at [email protected]



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