Skidding Bears Slide Into Stifling Stanford Saturday





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Coming off consecutive Pac-10 losses, the No. 18 Cal women's soccer team looks to get the monkey off its back with a conference win tomorrow.

Unfortunately for the Bears, that monkey is a 1,000 pound gorilla in the form of top-ranked Stanford.

Cal coach Kevin Boyd, in his sixth year, called the 2002 version of the Cardinal the best yet.

"They're the most talented and most athletic team (Stanford has) probably ever had," Boyd said. "They're by far the best that I've seen."

Hardly what the Bears want to be facing considering their recent skid. Having been ranked No. 4 as late as Sept. 29th, they have since steadily slipped in the rankings.

After getting swept by Washington and Washington State last weekend, Cal did a free fall to No. 18.

The Bears are in seventh place in the Pac-10. Cal has not finished below fifth in the conference's seven-year history.

Unless the Bears have a strong showing over their last three games, they may find themselves in the Cal history books for the wrong reason.

Fortunately, the Bears are at home where they have simply dominated opponents. At home they are 7-1 with a .57 goals against average.

On the road they are 2-5-1 with a goals against average close to two.

Boyd does not lie about the phenomenal Stanford team and neither do the numbers.

The Cardinal defense has only afforded three goals all year. That is not a misprint. The three goals are less than what some teams have given up in one game.

The Bears (9-6-1, 2-4 in the Pac-10) can blame North Carolina for this mess. Since its Oct. 4th loss to the Tar Heels, the Card (15-1, 6-0) has taken its game to next-level status.

Stanford has won seven consecutive games, all by shutouts. Six of those wins came against conference foes, including SoCal powers UCLA and USC.

In other words, now is not the time to mess with the S.

Out of the three games it has left to play, the Card needs only two wins to secure a share of the conference title.

That, coupled with the fact that Cal has won the last three meetings, should give Stanford plenty of incentive to play well this weekend.

The outcome of the game could depend on whether Bears midfielder Kim Yokers is cleared for action.

Yokers suffered a mild knee injury in last Friday's game against Washington and is still questionable leading up to the weekend.

"Kim Yokers is the energizer bunny," assistant coach Jennifer Thomas said. "She is easily our most mobile player and her work ethic tends to inspire others to work hard on the field."

Losing a playmaker like Yokers would leave the Cal midfield porous against a Cardinal club that has been lauded as one of the fastest in the conference.

"They probably have the best team speed in the Pac-10," Thomas said.

While the rivalry between the two teams is friendly, Boyd and his team would like nothing better than to oust the Card from the top spot.

"There's a healthy respect between the two programs," Boyd said. "But you don't want to beat anybody more than you want to beat Stanford."

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