Field Hockey: Cal Could Secure Top NorPac Seed

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Young women pitted against a band of Tigers in a closed arena for one matinee event.

No, this is not a circus extravaganza. It is the No. 20 Cal field hockey team in another conference matchup with Pacific. And admission is free.

After a 2-1 overtime victory earlier in the season on the road, the Bears (9-6, 4-0 in NorPac) will try to make it a sweep against their conference rivals, on their home turf.

Playing on Pacific's grass field, Cal fell behind early in the first game before breaking through late in the second half and keeping its NorPac record unblemished.

"We're kind of eager to get them on our surface," Cal coach Shellie Onstead said. "We expect a good fight from them, they've made a lot of good improvements this year."

The Tigers (3-11, 2-3 NorPac) have won their last two after losing their previous 11. Still, after the 7-1 thrashing of St. Louis on Tuesday, the Bears should have little trouble Saturday.

"We can't take them lightly," Onstead said. "We'll have to make adjustments in the game."

These adjustments will include the execution of set plays, improvement on defensive press and ball possession.

However, Cal will also have to make the unexpected adjustment of replacing starter Anita Reyes, who is sidelined with a stress fracture in her foot and is out at least through the remainder of the regular season.

"Converting players does affect the chemistry," Onstead said. "There are a few we can put (in her place), but they'll be getting a crash course because they haven't played there in while."

The next couple of practices and the Pacific game will help finalize these position changes and get them set for the conference tournaments, which are only two games away.

Onstead sees this as a major set back, but is happy with the team's progress.

"We're having a good year in terms of being ready and getting prepared to peak (for the tournament)," Onstead said. "For the whole time we've been getting each piece of the puzzle going and putting it together."

A victory over the Tigers will also guarantee Cal the No. 1 seed in the NorPac tournament, since it holds the tie-breaker edge over Stanford.

The high seed has been one of the Bears' short-term goals for the season and should make it easier for them to advance further toward the championship.

But in a season of unexpected outcomes, Cal will have to be careful and receive as much support from its fans as it can.

"I've been telling them I think there will be some real upsets and that it better not be us," Onstead said. "The crowd plays a big role for us. The better the turnout, the better we turn out our play."


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