Pilots Zoom In to Give Bears Tough Challenge

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Finishing up its final drills on the eve of its biggest game yet, the Cal women's soccer team huddled together to hear Coach Neil McGuire's closing statement on the team's performance during practice:

"You're ready for Portland."

With this shared sentiment and an unbeaten streak on their minds, the No. 16 Bears (5-0-3) will face some of the stiffest competition of their season when they host the No. 3 Pilots (9-0-0) today at 3 p.m. It will be their last home event at Edwards Stadium before a three-game road trip that includes their first Pac-10 matches against UCLA and USC.

Portland is the second ranked opposition of Cal's season, and it still holds the upper hand on previous matches, having gone 5-3-2 against the Bears. The Pilots have won the past four games, with a 4-0 victory over Cal last year.

Portland is coming off of a 1-0 win against then-No. 6 Texas A&M.

The Pilots are led by freshman forward Micaela Capelle, who has racked up 13 points in her first nine collegiate games. Capelle has only stared three of those matches, but her six goals are four more than the team's second-leading scorer, Sophie Schmidt.

Even as her team enters the contest as a heavy underdog, Bears senior Megan Jeslova noted that surprises that defy rankings can always occur.

"It's who comes out to play, in the end. On that given day… anyone can beat anyone," Jesolva said. "It's whoever wants to show up."

The Bears have already shown they can show up. After nail biters against San Francisco and Pacific over the weekend, the team maintains confidence despite facing a significantly stronger opponent. Yet, the manner in which they approached an unexpected adversity attested to their mindset at this point in the season.

While San Francisco presented defensive problems, Cal's utilizing of the weapon in team captain Alex Morgan allowed for an eventual penalty kick to win the game.

With one of the weekend's tests behind Cal, the team's reslience against Pacific reaffirmed the Bears' potential to keep with Portland. Down a score in the 39th minute, the team trailed until the very end, adapting its play style and cycling through various formations until freshman defender Emi Lawson tied the game in the 87th minute.

With these performances in their back pocket, and the Pilots waiting just ahead, McGuire is instilling a game-by-game and developmental attitude seems in the team.

"We're trying to focus on what we're capable of doing as opposed to the things that Portland is capable of doing," McGuire said.


Contact Samuel Farahmand at [email protected]

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