Road Woes Take a Back Seat to NorPac Implications at Stanford

Nick Fradkin/File

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If there's a time for the Cal field hockey team to start winning on the road, it is now.

With eight straight road losses stamped on their record, this weekend is the Bears' last chance to get a win somewhere other than Berkeley. But it's more than just trying to prevent a winless record on the road. Today's 7 p.m. game against Stanford is a glimpse into the postseason.

"Given that the conference tournament is (at Stanford) this year, this game is big," Cal coach Shellie Onstead said. "It's the same old Stanford story, but being able to establish ourselves on their field would be great."

Cal (5-9, 3-1 in the NorPac) won't be playing its usual one game at Varsity Turf Field this season. Because Stanford (12-2, 4-1) is hosting the NorPac tournament, the Bears could play as many as four games on the Cardinal's home turf-a venue that hasn't been kind to Cal in recent history.

The Bears were upset in their last regular-season match and again in the NorPac Tournament finals by the Cardinal last season. The conference championship match two years ago-the last time that Stanford hosted the tournament-ended in much the same fashion.

"It's been two years of that," co-captain Sophie Sproats said. "And it doesn't bring up good memories."

But for all the history that Varsity Turf Field carries with it, the Bears are 1-0 against the Cardinal this season.

"We can't play for vengeance," Megan Psyllos said. "We have to play for now, and this team that wants to win and be successful."

Even in the most storied rivalry in the NorPac, the level of familiarity between the Bears and the Cardinal isn't always an advantage.

"If we get too caught up in dealing with anticipating what they do, you forget to play," Psyllos said. "It becomes so structured and takes the joy out of the game and we don't play as well."

Although they've yet to get a win on the road, the Bears have recently found offensive confidence. In its last two wins, Cal's 10 goals have come from nine different players.

"We're getting some more field goals and goals out of people that haven't been producing," Onstead said. "And then we can just use corners as gravy. That mentality of getting over the 25-meter line and coming away with a shot, corner or goal is getting better. We're not just twittering it away."

As for the Bears' defense-that's one area that has been tested.

"Our defense is pretty good; we've gotten a lot of practice this year," Sproats said. "If (the Cardinal) offense is good, our defense is better."

With both sides of their game coming together, today's contest and Sunday's 1 p.m. game against UC Davis at Aggie Stadium could yield a fourth-straight top seed in the NorPac Tournament.

"We just can't take a step back," Psyllos said. "We're nearing the end of the season and if we take a step back, what have we accomplished?"


Contact Caroline Ogawa at [email protected]

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