Undefeated Cal Returns Home

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When the going gets tough, home can be an especially welcoming place.

Fortunately for the No. 8 Cal women's soccer team, the Bears will return to the friendly confines of Edwards Stadium for the first time since Sept. 3 this weekend, when they play Colorado College and San Diego in the Golden Gate Classic. It couldn't have come at a better time.

"We have midterms and we just had one hell of a weekend," Cal coach Kevin Boyd said. "Our starters are not recovering as fast as I'd like. I'm giving them lighter practices this week. It has nothing to do with us. It has to do with the situation."

Indeed, the Bears (8-0-1) are coming off an emotionally draining weekend in which they won the 2000 Adidas Bay Area Classic after fighting through two overtimes that resulted in a 1-1 tie to then-No. 19 Santa Clara.

Furthermore, in the stretch since Cal last played at home, it has traveled to Los Angeles and North Carolina to take on talented teams such as then-No. 14 Wake Forest.

On top of that, midterm season means the Bears are being tested in the classroom now as well.

Cal begins its return home with a matchup against Colorado (9-3) at 4p.m. today. It will be the first time the teams have ever faced each other.

"They're doing very well," Boyd said. "I don't know a whole lot about them. They do have a new coach, (Greg Ryan). He's traditionally been very strong. He's always done well with his team. Expect a very hard-working team."

While the Tigers have racked up nine wins, they are currently mired in a slump. After starting off with eight straight wins, Colorado has dropped three of its last four games.

On the field, the Bears will have to keep an eye on Tigers midfielder Kasey Clark, who paces the team with 16 points.

For Sunday's 1 p.m. game, the opponent comes in the form of San Diego (7-3). Forward Stephanie Barnier leads the team with 17 points.

"They're very good," Boyd said. "They made the playoffs last year."

Cal does look to get a boost with an improving injury situation. Sweeper Tami Pivnick and defender Kim Stocklmeir - key parts of the Bears' iron defense that has surrendered just three goals in nine games - are available to play if needed. Both are recovering from leg injuries.

Lee Ann Morton will also return to the midfield after being forced to sit out the past two games with a broken nose.

Last weekend marked the return of Regina Holan, Cal's second-leading scorer last year with 19 points and eight goals. She has been unable to step on the field due to a leg injury. Whether her scoring touch has returned is a question that has yet to be answered.

"She still isn't painfree," Boyd said. "We still have to limit her playing time."

While Colorado and San Diego look to be tough, Cal is clearly the favorite.

The women's program has continued its rise to national prominence with its best start since 1987. After beginning the season unranked in the NSCAA poll, the Bears have ascended to the top-10. They have yet to be overmatched this season.

On offense, sophomore striker Laura Schott continues to pile on goals with three goals last weekend. She now has 21 points total.

Defensively, Maite Zabala has done nothing to discourage the notion that she is among the country's elite goalkeepers. After breaking the school record for shutouts with 22.5 against San Jose State, she turned in an eye-opening effort against the Broncos with nine saves, six of them coming in the two overtimes.

Her exploits have earned her a spot on Soccer America's Team of the Week. She was also named Pac-10 Player of the Week.


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