Opportunity to Clinch Pac-10 Awaits Bears

Photo: John Fitzpatrick is tied for second on the team with five goals. The sophomore forward also has two assists on the season.
Sean Goebel/File
John Fitzpatrick is tied for second on the team with five goals. The sophomore forward also has two assists on the season.

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With a Pac-10 championship within reach and three games remaining, the Cal men's soccer team is focused.

For a team that stumbled at the end of the last season and missed the NCAA College Cup, the Bears are in prime position to dethrone UCLA and capture their first conference title since 2007.

And they have three home games to make it happen.

Coach Kevin Grimes' squad has completed its travel schedule and will conclude its regular season campaign with three games at home, starting today against Oregon State at 2 p.m., at Edwards Stadium

Most teams equate home dates with success, but that hasn't really mattered for Cal this season. When the Bears traveled to Oregon State and Washington earlier in the season, they trounced both opponents by a combined score of 9-1.

Cal notched probably its most important victory of the year last Sunday with its 1-0 overtime victory over UCLA.

Regardless of time, venue or weather, the goal for Cal remains the same with such little time left in the season: win.

"We're a pretty well-traveled squad," Grimes said. "A lot of these guys were around when we traveled to Italy in 2008, so we know how to play on the road. It hasn't really mattered for us if we've been home or away."

While the last results imply that Cal should find its way to two easy victories, the team understands that other squads love to play spoiler when facing the top team.

"When the referee blows the whistle, it's not a continuation of the last game," Grimes said. "I think we've done a lot in practice this week to assure that we're prepared for this week's games."

For the Beavers (6-6, 1-4 in the Pac-10), they'll probably be looking to score before anything else. They have been outscored 10-0 in their last three games and are on a four-game losing streak.

Their only conference victory came against San Diego State in their first Pac-10 game of 2010. Everything since then has been a struggle.

Conversely, Washington is coming off of a thorough shellacking of the Beavers, a much-needed jolt for a squad that was coming off of the 4-1 loss to Cal.

When Cal takes the field against the Huskies on Saturday, the defense will have one goal in mind: stop Brent Richards.

The junior forward and 2009 Second Team All-Pac-10 selection leads Washington with 20 points (eight goals and four assists). Richards is tied with Cal's own Davis Paul for the conference lead in points.

Despite dominating the two teams on the road and making a hit YouTube video during the bus ride, this weekend is Cal's opportunity to solidify its first-place standing in the conference, and the Bears seem determined to so.

"We're making sure that we're prepared," Grimes said. "We need to stay focused for these two games."


Gabriel Baumgaertner covers men's soccer. Contact him at [email protected]

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