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Q&A with Pac-12 Networks' J.B. Long about Cal vs. Stanford Women's Soccer match

No.20 Cal Golden Bears will look to spoil No.4 Stanford's perfect Pac-12 record and Senior Night on Friday night at 6 pm PT. J.B. Long will call that game with Krista Blunk. We ask J.B. a few questions about this game and Pac-12 Women's Soccer.

Cal Women's Soccer hope to close their regular season with a win down at the Farm on Friday night.
Cal Women's Soccer hope to close their regular season with a win down at the Farm on Friday night.
Cal Women's Soccer Facebook

Pac-12 Networks' polymath (the guy covers baseball, basketball, football, soccer, golf, AND wrestling) J.B. Long was kind enough to answer several questions about the upcoming Cal vs. Stanford women's soccer match on Friday night (6 pm PT on Pac-12 Networks). It's a sold out match so fans who didn't already got tickets would have to watch the Pac-12 Networks with play-by-play by J.B. Long and Krista Blunk.

Ruey Yen: Cal forward Arielle Ship is clearly a strong contender for the Pac-12 Player of the Year with her league leading 16 goals, 34 points (which means that she has a healthy 6 assists), and 6 game winning goals. Just how good is she? How much better realistically can the junior's game improve by next year?

J.B. Long: You're right; she's the Pac-12 Player of the Year in a landslide. Her individual season has been tremendous, and her contributions have been especially valuable given the injuries Cal has endured around her. I hope she gets strong consideration for the Hermann Trophy.

Her skill is tremendous, as evidenced by multiple hat tricks and the point total. I'm not sure that as a senior she'll be able to duplicate this statistical production -- that's how impressive it's been -- however I wouldn't put it past her. Every side Cal faces next year will be determined to knock her off her game. It will be interesting to see how she grows year-to-year, and it will be important for players like Miranda Nild learn how to complement her in the attack.

Ruey Yen: Between a very solid defensive line, Cal goalie Emily Boyd has already matched a program record of 11 clean sheets on the season. Boyd is often good for a highlight reel save or two per match, how does her game stack up against the other goalies in the Pac?

J.B. Long: We have so many elite keepers in our league: Jane Campbell (Stanford), Sammy Jo Prudhomme (USC), Ella Dederick (WSU). But Emily Boyd is in that category as a sophomore, which is a credit to her. I have a lot of appreciation for the commitment that Neil and the Cal staff made to her in the recruiting process, fully anticipating that she would be the heir apparent to Emily Kruger.

Plus, she makes a mean grilled cheese:

Ruey Yen: Stanford has already clinched the Pac-12 title (sadly). What has been the recipe for their success?

J.B. Long: Same Stanford, just a different season. They dominate the ball; they build from the back; they deliver precision strikes in clutch moments; they rarely break down defensively, and when they do, they typically have a top-notch keeper ready to save the day. What makes this Stanford group unique is how influential their underclasswomen have been. Andi Sullivan is a national team talent, and just a sophomore. You'd never believe Teegan McGrady and Alana Cook are freshmen, given the roles they play for a league champion.

Honestly, I've been following Cardinal soccer closely now for four seasons. The only thing that changes are the names and faces. Paul's program is a model of consistency and achievement. I'd keep going, but I fully expect you to redact this entire answer for Berkeley's sake.

[RY: Thanks for bursting my bubble about Cal overtaking Stanford in women's soccer in the near future.]

Ruey Yen: Stanford lead the Pac in goals, but their leading scorers (in fact, 3 of them) only have 5 goals. Who should the Bears pay the most attention to?

J.B. Long: That's just the thing: every opponent has to pick their poison with Stanford. 

Haley Rosen stands out. She's a fifth year with a lethal strike from distance off her left foot. 

Jordan DiBiasi may have the goal of the season in women's soccer, beating USC on a gorgeous heel flick.

Then on any given night, Megan Turner or Michelle Xiao or McGrady or Kyra Carusa or Ryan Walker-Hartshorn or Mariah Lee can beat you. It's almost as challenging for the broadcasters as the opposing coaches -- tough to decide on whom we should focus.

[RY: Sorry for flooding CGB cover with so much positivity about Stanford.]

Ruey Yen: Stanford goalie Jane Campbell has a low goal against average but also a mediocre save percentage. How good is she if the Bears can put some shots on goal?

J.B. Long: If she can reach it, she'll stop it. As much as I love statistics, her save percentage might be one example where they lie. Cal needs to put shots on her, no question. But they better be clinical, because it's unlikely that they'll be the beneficiary of a Campbell miscue.

[RY: J.B., you're just trying to jinx Stanford...right?]

Ruey Yen: How many Pac-12 teams will made the NCAA tournament this year? How deep of a run can the Golden Bears go this year? As a Cal fan that lives on the East Coast, should I plan a trip to Cary, NC for the College Cup...just in case?

J.B. Long: Six should make the field, with half our league holding Top-40 RPIs this week. Incredible that UCLA isn't a seventh, but it was an off-year in Westwood. 

Regarding the Bears, I've had more than one opposing coach tell me that Cal has the most talented roster in the Pac-12. This group has Tournament experience and has won postseason matches. I see no reason they shouldn't have College Cup aspirations.

[RY: College Cup is scheduled for December 4th-6th in Cary, NC. FYI.]

Ruey Yen: Stanford in 2011 and UCLA in 2013 finally broke through with NCAA championships recently. The only other Pac-12 title was USC in 2007. Which Pac-12 school do you see as the next one to win a women's soccer championship?

J.B. Long: Has to be Stanford. They'll likely have home field advantage in the postseason this year with a group that could do it. And if they don't bring home a title in 2015, the Cardinal could very well return as the preseason #1 team in the nation in 2016.

[RY: Yeah, more Stanford positivity!]

Ruey Yen: Cal alum Alex Morgan is now clearly the face of USWNT, even if her performance in the recent World Cup was hampered by injury. How much credit should we give her for Cal getting some top recruiting class? How much credit should go to coach Neil McGuire?

J.B. Long: Tough to assign percentages, but Morgan's profile and influence certainly hasn't hurt. She's a great ambassador for Cal and the Pac-12, as so many of our national teamers are.

Neil deserves the credit for building these classes, though I'm sure he'd tell you it doesn't hurt to have someone like Alex as an example of where time in Berkeley can take you.

Ruey Yen: For a soccer hooligan that has no school allegiance, why would a Pac-12 women's game more interesting to watch on TV than a SEC or B1G soccer match?

J.B. Long: Aside from our delightful panel of Pac-12 Network broadcasters, you mean?

So many reasons. But to chose one for today: Venues. Nothing beats a night on The Farm, or the perfect pitch at Edwards Stadium, or a match on Montlake on the shores of Lake Washington, or an afternoon nestled against the Wasatch Mountains in Salt Lake. 

A wise man once said of the Pac-12, "No truck stops."

Ruey Yen: Stanford has already clinched and Cal can use a big boost in RPI with a win, who will leave this Bay Area Derby victorious?

J.B. Long: I definitely see what you're driving at here. Potentially Cal has more to play for and may be hyper-motivated. It also will be Senior Day at Stanford, which can be accompanied by distracting emotions.

I'll only disagree in that the Cardinal can effectively clinch home field until the College Cup with a win over the Bears. A loss to Cal could easily knock them off that track. Stanford will be focused on Pac-12 perfection.

Plus, in the Big Match, there's no such thing as "added motivation." It's already baked in at full dose.

I remember Rachel Mercik's moment of magic from 2013 at Cagan, and I could easily envision another OT thriller decided in golden goal fashion.

I'll predict a scoreless draw, that way we can all be guaranteed it won't happen.

Thanks to J.B. Long again for sharing his insight. I understand that he has to deal with the overbearing Stanford parents on Friday night and that's perhaps why he's so diplomatic about how good of a team Stanford is. Be sure to come back on Friday night for our open thread for this match.