New-Look Bears Enter Old Dominion

Photo: Cal keeper Kelly Knoche currently ranks seventh in the nation in goals against average (1.12) and 18th in save percentage (0.756) as the Bears embark on another East Coast road trip.
Nick Fradkin/Staff
Cal keeper Kelly Knoche currently ranks seventh in the nation in goals against average (1.12) and 18th in save percentage (0.756) as the Bears embark on another East Coast road trip.

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In week one of the season, the No. 14 Cal field hockey team had the mentality of a top-10 program, but it lacked the resume to back it up.

Now a consistent top-20 contender nearing the end of the regular season, a sweep over three East Coast powerhouses could give them that final nudge in the polls.

"We just need to roll through," senior Andrea Lo said following the Michigan road trip. "We're playing absolutely great, so we can step up to play the top teams like Wake (Forest)."

The Bears (9-2, 5-0 in the NorPac) have never lacked the confidence; however, history is against them.

In coach Shellie Onstead's 14 years at the helm, she has never beaten Old Dominion and the Demon Deacons in the same road trip. According to Onstead, this year may be the year, and this team may be the team to cap off a successful road trip with an upset over No. 3 Wake Forest.

But the Bears can't get ahead of themselves. Before they can think about the Demon Deacons, they must stave off defeat in their first two matches of the road trip, starting with today's 2 p.m. game against the Monarchs (6-7, 4-1 in the CAA) at the Powhatan Sports Complex in Norfolk, Va.

"I think we're going to just make sure not to plateau," senior Ashley Glosz said. "We need to keep getting better and it's easy to get comfortable after a blowout win. Everyone thinks we're in a good place, but Davidson is a much weaker team than any other teams we will be facing on the road trip, so we have to come in twice as prepared."

Cal has proven it can avoid upsets and crush a lower-ranked opponent like the Wildcats, but a top-10 program is a whole new monster.

Less than three weeks ago, the Bears lost to then-No. 10 Michigan State in a quick seven-on-seven overtime. Although Cal dominated most of the game, the No. 6 Spartans showed the necessary poise for the come-from-behind win.

But the Bears haven't been stagnant since their Michigan road trip. In their last two NorPac rompings, Onstead pulled most of the starting lineup in the second half and got to shake up the backfield to work on their attack.

"We dropped A-Lo back and sent the halfbacks up high," Onstead said. "We're looking for ways to get our halfbacks more involved, and that maybe a tactic we can utilize later."

In the lull between the two road trips, Onstead evaluated her arsenal and toyed with potential new weapons by giving true freshman Jessica Kreck her first minutes of regular-season play. However, some things never change. While Onstead makes the last few adjustments before the road trip, she knows that her team's small stature will always necessitate quick feet.

"We worked on a lot of half court pressing, which plays to our strength," Onstead said. "If we win it we can use our speed to counter attack. We're going to work on finishing and decision-making opportunities inside the circle."


Contact Caroline Ogawa at [email protected]

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