The Olympic games may still be going on in Rio, but it’s time to show some love to potential future Cal Olympians. Let’s preview Cal Women’s Soccer (season kicks off later today) and Cal Field Hockey today. Next week, we will get to Cal Volleyball (Blue and Gold scrimmage is this Saturday) and Men’s Soccer. After that, it will be a preview of Cal Men’s Water Polo (who I will also try to talk to when they visit Princeton in the weekend right after Labor Day) and Cal Cross Country.
Cal Women’s Soccer
2015 Final Record: 13-6-3, knocked out in NCAA 1st round by LMU
Key Returnee: 2015 Pac-12 Player of the Year Arielle Shipp, goalkeeper Emily Boyd
X-Factor: Redshirt senior Ifeoma Onumonu, if she can return to her sophomore form (2013) prior to the season-ending leg injury early two matches into her junior year. Onumonu played the 2015 season with this bulky brace on her left leg.
Expectations: 2016 should see the Bears return to the NCAA Tournament for the 13th consecutive season, although consistency and challenging for the Pac-12 crown are certainly plausible expectation for a veteran squad.
Preseason ranking: 18th in the NSCAA Coaches’ poll, picked to finish 3rd in the Pac-12
Kicking off the 2016-17 school year will again be Cal Women’s Soccer, who will open plays when they host Cal Poly at Edwards Stadium at 4 PM PT this afternoon.
The Golden Bears are coming off one of the better regular seasons in program history, although the season ended rather prematurely when the host Golden Bears were upset by Loyola Marymount University in an 1-0 match in the NCAA 1st Round. In 2015, the Bears were able to draw top No.5 teams in North Carolina and Stanford. Bears also got a huge road 3-1 victory over Duke, who eventually became the National Runner-Up.
Bears return a strong front line led by the reigning Player of the Year (first Cal winner in program history) in senior Arielle Ship and Redshirt senior Ifeoma Onumonu back healthy. Ship led Cal, and the Pac, with 14 goals, 6 game winners, and 34 points while also recording 6 assists (3rd best in the Pac). Heather Walleigh (1 goal and 4 assists) is another returning forward with some experiences.
Bears also have a strong goaltender in junior Emily Boyd, who posted the 7th best goals against average of 0.57 in her sophomore campaign in 2015. Boyd spent the summer with the USA U-20 team in Australia.
Bears will also have an experienced backline of Indigo Gibson, Annia Mejia, and Haley Lukas - all juniors now. Midfielders Kelly Fitzgerald (19 starts in 2015) and Emma Fletcher (20 starts in 2015) are back for their junior and senior seasons, respectively.
Bears will miss the midfield play of Samantha Witteman (who had 4 goals and 3 assists), who was drafted 10th overall in the NWSL draft by Orlando Pride (same team as Alex Morgan), and the killer instinct of forward Celeste Boureille (5 goals and 2 assists), now playing on the Portland Thorns.
As for potential impact freshmen, both Abigail Kim and Mia Corbin have experienced with the United State youth team. Fellow midfielder Avery Lakeman has international experience with Canada. We shall see how play time the talented freshmen will get. Cal head coach Neil McGuire has traditionally been a fan of using nearly the maximum allotment of substitutions.
After the Bears kick off the 2016 season at home against Cal Poly today, they will then play at Santa Clara on Sunday.
Key non-conference match: Cal Women’s Soccer will be the latest Golden Bears squad to try to go make Austin, Texas a Bear Territory. Bears will make a Texas trip on Labor Day weekend and play Texas Tech in Lubbock on Friday, September 2nd before facing Texas in Austin on Sunday, September 4th.
On TV: 9 matches are currently scheduled for the Pac-12 Networks. They are all Pac-12 matches with the exception of the Bears’ Pac-12 Networks debut against USF on Friday, September 16th.
Pac-12 Outlook: Women’s Soccer is one of the very few sports that have full participation by the entire Pac.
Stanford is once again the preseason favorite to win the Pac. Stanford is led by their senior goalie Jane Campbell. They have won the Pac 5 times in the last 7 seasons.
USC was selected by the coaches as the preseason No.2. The Trojans are coming off a season that saw them advance to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.
Coming off a rare losing season, UCLA will likely bounce back even though USWNT member Mallory Pugh will take the season off to play with the USA U-20 squad. Pugh is not expected to start college until the January of 2017. The Bruins are picked to finish 4th, just behind the Bears.
Cal Field Hockey
2015 Final Record: 9-10, including a 2-1 victory in OT over Stanford on September 18th
Bears also defeated 14th ranked Penn State 3-2 on the road.
Key Returnee: America East Rookie of the Year, Melina Moore (10 gaols and 2 assists), Goalkeeper Kori Griswold (2.36 goals against average, 89 saves, 0.701 save percentage)
X-Factor: Berkeley home field advantage. After being on the road for two years, Cal Field Hockey can finally play field hockey in Berkeley. More importantly, the players do not need to travel to Stanford in early mornings to have full practices.
Expectations: 2015 saw the Cal Road Warriors playing some great field hockey early on before all the travels wear them down toward the end (Bears lost their last 4 matches). Battle tested and finally back in the comfort of Berkeley, Cal Field Hockey should have their first winning season since 2011.
So it begins. Cal FH 2016 is underway with the first team selfie! pic.twitter.com/F8ajcJqfPC— Cal Field Hockey (@CalFieldHockey) August 12, 2016
What’s new for Cal Field Hockey? How about not having to travel to Stanford twice a week for practices and then play all “home matches” at either UC Davis, Pacific, or Stanford.
Technically, the Golden Bears have already hosted a couple spring games at the new Underhill Field facility.
First game, first win. The streak begins. Thank you Olympic Club for the match. Go Bears! pic.twitter.com/saPm81iAFB— Cal Field Hockey (@CalFieldHockey) February 21, 2016
Nevertheless, the lack of crazy travel schedule should be a welcomed change for the Cal Field Hockey squad which will be a mix of upperclassmen and 7 freshmen.
Returning for the Bears are the top 4 scorers from 2015: Melina Moore (22 points, 10 goals, 2 assists), Sydney Earle (14 points, 5 goals, 4 assists), Janaye Sakkas (14 points, 6 goals, 2 assists) and Nicole Henriksson (10 points, 4 goals, 2 assists).
Defensively, after starting every match for the past two seasons, junior Kori Griswold is back in front of the goal again for the Golden Bears.
In a “I don’t really know what is going on”, Bears will have to replace Marie Lanckneus (from Belgium), Bella Forbes (from New Zealand), and Paula Seibt (from Germany) in addition to Clara Goni who has graduated. The foreigners listed were all starters who should still have eligibilities but are no longer listed on the roster. I guess there has got to be room to accommodate the incoming freshman class that is 7 players deep.
The team traveled to South Africa during the summer for some special bonding opportunities. Oh, there was some field hockey as well.
Golden Bears will play a lot of home matches in their new state of the art facility (although fans may need to bring their own chairs for the time being). Season starts against Northeastern on August 28th. Bears will host Michigan on September 4th. Bears will travel to the Terrapin Invitational to play against the always top ranked Maryland team before returning to Berkeley to host Drexel.
Bears will make two other trips east to play Appalachian State and Wake Forest in North Carolina and then Vermont and Maine in Maine (the last two are America East members).
America East outlook:
Cal Field Hockey will be competing in America East for the 2nd straight season. In the preseason poll, the Bears are picked 3rd in the West division in a tie with UC Davis. Stanford and Pacific are the top two picks. I don’t think the East division coaches really know that much about the West division teams for this poll to mean too much. In a curious case of geography, the America East Championships tournament will be hosted by Pacific this year (Stockton is in the East Bay).
GOAL ON YOU BEARS!