NorPac Title Within Reach For Bears Against Card

Photo: Midfielder Andrea Lo (left) is one of 10 seniors who will be honored before today's match against Stanford. A victory will clinch the Bears' tenth consecutive NorPac title.
Nick Fradkin/File
Midfielder Andrea Lo (left) is one of 10 seniors who will be honored before today's match against Stanford. A victory will clinch the Bears' tenth consecutive NorPac title.

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Win or lose its last conference game, the No. 15 Cal field hockey team will share a portion of the NorPac regular-season title for the tenth straight year. But the Bears aren't patting each other on the back or popping the champaign for an early celebration.

Of its two remaining games against Stanford, only one will count towards Cal's NorPac standings, meaning there is just one game standing between them and a perfect conference record. Perhaps, it will be beneficial to get a little practice.

"We're playing them two games in a row," Knoche said. "Depending on how NorPac rankings go, we could even be playing them three times in a row because of the conference tournament. We need to know how good we are through every one of those games."

Before traveling to the Farm next week, Cal (11-3,. 5-0 in the NorPac) will host Stanford (4-9, 2-2) today at 1:30 P.M. at Maxwell Family Field. Although it's not a conference game, the Bears have a little unfinished business.

"I was going to say we're going to prepare for this game like any other, but it is Stanford," Cal coach Shellie Onstead said.

Last November, the top-seeded Bears were one game away from entering the NCAA postseason for the third-straight season. In the NorPac tournament championship game, Cal met second-seeded Stanford for the third time that season. The Bears had an 18-game winning streak over the Cardinal, so another win didn't seem like a stretch.

But three-consecutive Stanford goals successfully ended Cal's postseason push, and the Bears left the Farm without an automatic NCAA play-in game.

Granted, today's game isn't for a conference crown or an NCAA berth, but now the Bears understand the importance of playing right to the end.

"We cannot let the emotion of them being our rival team or us being their rival affect the game," Knoche said. "We have to prove that we're the top team, and we need to dominate the game. It's our last home game and we need to finish."

Although Cal is coming off a 1-0 shutout at the hands of No. 3 Wake Forest, the team is assured that the experience of playing a top-5 opponent has only made them stronger.

"We're going to be in that situation again," Onstead said. "There's the conference tournament and then the Ivy play-in game, so we'll be there again."

It's been clear from the beginning of the season that the Bears had their sights set on a prolonged run in the NCAA, and today's game is the first step in that direction.

Cal is going to test the waters in its first regular-season game against the Cardinal, because the next match is the one that counts.

"I don't have to work too hard to play the emotional card," Ontead said. "It's the last home game for the seniors, and the next conference game is big."

Tags: SHELLIE ONSTEAD, CAL FIELD HOCKEY


Contact Caroline Ogawa at [email protected]



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