Bears Trek East for Tournament

Photo: Erin Magill is currently tied for the third-most points on the Bears, with 12 (four goals and four assists). The junior has also fired off a team-high 34 shots this season.
Chris McDermut/File
Erin Magill is currently tied for the third-most points on the Bears, with 12 (four goals and four assists). The junior has also fired off a team-high 34 shots this season.

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Single-elimination tournaments can be fickle. In 2008, Cal easily had the best team on paper, but fell to Stanford in the NorPac tournament championship match. In 2009, the Bears entered with a drastically different team, having graduated 10 seniors, but bowed out to the Cardinal once again. Both times for the Cal field hockey team, losses to Stanford goals meant no NorPac title and no NCAA play-in berth.

However, that was 2009, when the Bears entered the tournament without the presence of a single senior. A lack of veteran presence won't be the case this time as No. 2-seeded Cal (8-8, 5-1 in NorPac) kicks off its postseason campaign today at 3:30 p.m. against No. 3-seeded Radford.

"I think we're gonna go really far this season," senior Megan Psyllos said. "We're a great team, and one of the best teams I've ever played on talent-wise and chemistry-wise."

It's a team that has had a mixed bag of success in the regular season. In Cal's second-to-last regular season game against Pacific, the Bears executed a season-long goal: playing an effective 70 minutes. Cal's ball movement put three goals past the Tigers while keeper Maddie Hand turned away three shots to preserve the shutout.

The Bears have the opportunity to duplicate that success in their quarterfinal match against the Highlanders, who, like Pacific, are a grass team. Like the Tigers, Radford (8-10, 2-4) has struggled, entering the tournament with a six-game losing streak.

"It's tough because we haven't seen them," Cal head coach Shellie Onstead said. "They're dangerous, they're always dangerous."

In last season's semifinal match, Radford's tenacity limited the Bears to just one first-half goal despite five corners, before Cal pulled away for a 3-0 victory. The danger doesn't end with just the Highlanders, either.

Should the Bears advance to semifinal play, they will likely face No. 1-seeded Davidson, which holds home-field advantage as its role as tournament host. Led by NorPac top scorer Finley Amato, the Wildcats (13-6, 5-1) have compiled a gaudy overall record in comparison to the rest of the East Division and are enjoying one of its best seasons in school history.

And at the conclusion of the tournament, Cal has a chance for a re-match against the No. 1-seeded Cardinal. Meeting any team, let alone Stanford (11-5, 5-1), for the third time in a season is never an easy task.

"You try to prepare for it all year, because the trick is to perform under pressure," Onstead said. "I think we've done a pretty good job of it. We're in a good place, mentally, and now comes the fun part."


Catherine Nguyen covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected]

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