Rested Bears Host Hawkeyes in New Home

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Odysseus has nothing on the Cal field hockey team.

After overcoming some epic challenges to begin their season, the No. 16 Bears finally return home to a weary hero's welcome.

Saturday's matchup with No. 8 Iowa, billed as a double-header with the football game at Memorial, marks the first scheduled home game that Cal will actually play at home.

Renovations to the playing surface at Maxwell Family Field forced the team to play its first two "home" games at Stanford, followed by a three-game, four-day road trip through the Midwest.

After coming through the stretch with a 4-1 record, including a three-game sweep on the road, the Bears can make a triumphant return to their spanking new facility against the Hawkeyes (4-2).

"Playing (at Stanford) is not ideal obviously," Cal coach Shellie Onstead said. "It doesn't feel foreign because we play there so often, but it is an inconvenience."

Cal has had quite a chance to regroup, with a nearly two-week layoff since its win at Indiana Sept. 8, though it has been a busy time.

Even with her team atop the NorPac Conference, Onstead sees room for improvement-especially with the Bears' tendency to pull out sloppy victories.

During the long break, they have been finalizing starting positions, tightening their execution of set plays and improving their overall fitness. But mostly they have been resting from their strenuous schedule.

"It was a welcomed week of rest," said Onstead. "Especially since we've been practicing at six in the morning. The timing was just great."

Iowa is coming off a sweep of its own after shutting out Connecticut and Providence at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge.

Coming off these big victories, the Hawkeyes should be a tough test for Cal.

Onstead said because the two teams haven't faced each other in the past year, much prep work cannot be done on either side.

Instead, Cal will have to focus on their own game and improvise as the game wears on.

"I'm not sure what to expect except for a well fought game," said Onstead. "We'll try to build on things we've been doing well."

Such fine points include keeping possession of the ball in the backfield, setting up attacks and playing strong team defense and offense.

Against the Hawkeyes, the Bears cannot solely rely on NorPac Players of the Week Michelle Wald and Kelly Knapp to provide firepower and protection.

They will need a sharp, balanced team effort, especially in their composure on the ball.

Coming off the long break, Cal will be well-rested for the match and all players will be in uniform. However, Wald may play limited minutes due to a chronic back issue, requiring the offense to work even harder in her absence.

Goalkeeper Knapp will also try to extend her scoreless streak to four matches.

Sharing the spotlight with Cal football for the first time in ten years, the Bears will be trying to pull out the underdog victory like their football counterparts.


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