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Golden Medals: Cal Women’s Soccer and Field Hockey previews

Cal Women’s Soccer will kick off the 2017–18 school year when they host UC Irvine on August 18th at 5 pm PT.

With a brand new kit by Under Armour, Cal Women’s Soccer will be the first team to kick off the 2017-18 school year for Cal Athletics.
Cal Women’s Soccer Facebook

While many Cal fans, including yours truly (although I still need to figure out some details on the drive down to UNC), have September 2nd circled on their calendars since that is the first Cal Football game of the new school year, several Cal Fall Olympic sports will have already started well before then.

For the 2017–18 school year, Cal Women’s Soccer will once again kick things off first. The Golden Bears have a home match vs. UC Irvine on August 18th. They will then host Santa Clara on August 20th.

Cal Field Hockey will face off against Syracuse on August 25th. The same day will see Cal Men’s Soccer hosting West Virginia. The same weekend will also see Cal Volleyball hosting the annual Cal Molten Classic (against UC Irvine, Loyola Chicago, and Seattle).

The defending NCAA champs—Cal Men’s Water Polo—will start their title defense on September 2nd, down in San Diego.

With three team national titles in the 2016–17 school year (Men’s Water Polo and both Rugby 15’s and 7’s), Cal Athletics now claim a total of 97 team national championships. (Yes, more than half of them are non-NCAA titles from Rugby and Men’s Crew) Can Cal get to (and surpass) that nice and round 100 this school year? I am quite optimistic.

This is the tentative plan for the next few Golden Medals. Regular readers know that preseason info are often hard to come by (particularly for a blogger living on the other side of the country), but they have never stopped me from speculating on the seasons of our beloved California Golden Bears.

August 11th - Cal Women’s Soccer and Field Hockey Previews

August 18th - Cal Men’s Soccer Preview

August 25th - Cal Volleyball Preview

September 2nd - Cal Men’s Water Polo Preview

Cal Women’s Soccer seeks 14th consecutive NCAA postseason

Twitter: @CalWomensSoccer

2016 Finish: 13–5–3, eliminated in NCAA 1st round

Cal Women’s Soccer 2017 schedule
Cal Women’s Soccer Facebook

Key losses: Front-line superstars Arielle Ship (2015 Pac-12 Player of the Year) and Ifeoma Onumonu have graduated (and gone to the NWSL); also graduated is midfielder Emma Fletcher (Canadian U-20 team member and former transfer from LSU) and defender Lynsey Hromatko. Noticeably absent from the 2017 roster is defender (and Mexican U-20 team member) Annia Mejia (who should still have one year of eligibility left)

Key returnees: Goalkeeper Emily Boyd (11 shutouts each in both 2015 and 2016); the backline of Indigo Gibson (trained with the USA U-23 team this summer) and Haley Lukas; sophomore striker Abi Kim (3 Goals, 3 Assists in 2016) who spent part of the summer playing with the USA U-20 team; redshirt senior Kelly Fitzgerald (5 Goals, 2 Assists in 2016)

Key newcomers: 11 new Golden Bears are led by freshman defender Emily Smith, who spent the summer with USA U-17 national team; midfielder Luca Deza is wearing the coveted No. 10 (last worn by Ship) and played in the same club team as Smith and fellow frosh Kailee Gifford

A quick peruse of my summary above, it should be no surprise that the main concern with the 2017 Cal Women’s Soccer team is the offense. Nevertheless, with 17 returnees, including 7 starters, Golden Bears are in a great position to continue their streak of consecutive NCAA berths to 14.

Despite consecutive years of getting top recruits and regular season successes (although Cal has yet to really challenge for the Pac-12 title), head coach Neil McGuire’s squad is still waiting for that postseason breakthrough. Golden Bears have seen their season ends in an early round NCAA tournament via penalty kicks way too many times. Will this be the year where the Bears go on a deep postseason run?

The defense and goalkeeping are certainly there. Emily Boyd will look to step into the vacuum left by the graduation of Stanford’s Jane Campbell to be the top keeper in the Pac. Even without Mejia (whose social media still shows that she’s at Berkeley), the Cal backline should also be quite solid with experienced veterans and talented newcomers.

Without a go-to striker like Arielle Ship this year, sophomore Abi Kim will have to shoulder more of the scoring. Redshirt senior Kelly Fitzgerald and senior Heather Walleigh (who started 20 of 21 matches last year) will also be counted on more. Five returning Bears (Kim, Fitzgerald, sophomores Mia Corbin and Maggie Bell, and junior Miranda Nild) have scored a goal for the Golden Bears in 2016.

Nine Cal Women’s Soccer matches will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Networks, including the visits by Texas and Oklahoma (Oklahoma State will also visit Berkeley this year). The Pac-12 play will end with the gauntlet of USC, UCLA, and Stanford—all on the road. Hopefully, those matches may see the Golden Bears fighting for the conference crown.

Thoughts on the new uniform (clearly, this is why you’re reading my posts): The new Under Armour Cal women’s soccer kit looks extremely similar to the old ones (particularly the main home white and road blue). I wonder if the UA team just didn’t have enough time to do more for Cal Women’s Soccer this year since they are the first team to be in action in the fall. The exception is the alternative (third) gold kit with the script “Golden Bears” in the front; this same kit has the Sather stripes on the sleeves. The goalie’s third kit has the script “California” out front. We shall see how often the gold kit is worn in 2017.

Rest of the Pac: The Pac-12, [cue Bill Walton] Conference of Champions, will again be one of the top women’s soccer conference, along side the ACC. Five Pac-12 teams are ranked in the preseason coaches’ poll, but they do not include our Golden Bears.

USC, who lost a ton of talent to graduation, won the 2016 NCAA title. They won the fourth Pac-12 title in the last 10 years (2007–USC, 2011–Stanford, 2013–UCLA). UCLA Bruins do lose their USWNT star Mal Pugh to the pro (NWSL), but retain a dangerous core. Stanford lost Jane Campbell (goalkeeper) to graduation, but return the arguably best player—midfielder Andi Sullivan—for her senior season.

Danger level of being cut (new for the 201718 season):

All 12 Pac-12 teams have a Women’s Soccer program. Even beyond how most women’s teams are safer due to Title IX, it would be a big surprise if Women’s Soccer is ever that close to the chopping block.

Cal Field Hockey seeks more home success in 2nd year at Underhill

Twitter: @CalFieldHockey(this is a new account with head coach Shellie Onstead having her separate account now)

*Cal Field Hockey just changed their Twitter handle from CalFH to CalFieldHockey late this week

2016 Finish: 513, eliminated in the American East tournament semifinal

2016 saw Cal Field Hockey finally having a home field in Berkeley for the first time in three years after Maxwell Family Field was suddenly turned into a Cal Football practice facility without consulting the Field Hockey team. Needing water to make the field playable, Underhill Field was turned into a Field Hockey field only after several members of the team filed a Title IX lawsuit against the university since the team can only practice twice a week down at Stanford and that schedule prevented several student-athletes from taking their desired courses (not to mention a water source was conveniently found near the field to make it a viable option). Fortunately, all these off-the-field (because there was no field) dramas are behind us.

Cal Field Hockey returns plenty of starters, similar to Cal Women’s Soccer. One glaring departure, however, is that of goalkeeper Kori Griswold; though she still had another year of eligibility, she decided to go to the real world after obtaining her Cal degree in four years and you can’t really blame her for that decision. Bears will have to count on sophomore Danielle Mentink who started five matches last year or newcomer in Canadian Natalie Dalton.

Offensively, the top three scorers are all returning: juniors Melina Moore (6 Goals, 3 Assists), Katrina Carter (5 Goals, 4 Assists), and Janaye Sakkas (6 Goals). Bears will need to fill at least two more starters spot from the graduation of midfielders Sydney Earle and Monica Marrazzo.

Depending on the goalkeeper play, the Golden Bears should improve upon the 5 wins from 2016; 4 of the losses in 2016 were by merely one goal (or in PK). Bears also went just 1–6 in their then new home of Underhill Field (which may still be “bring your own chair” in year 2). The juniors on the teams have endured so much that they should be quite mentally strong.

Several big-name programs will be visiting Berkeley this year. Bears open their season against Syracuse (who were ranked in the top 3 last year), before hosting Michigan State. UMass and Iowa will also visit Berkeley. Per usual, the Cal Field Hockey teams will again make four trips East—to New England to play Bryant and Northeastern; another trip to Connecticut to play Fairfield and Quinnipiac; a trip to Columbus, OH to face Penn State and Ohio State; and the year ending American East tournament back at Lowell, MA (after it took place in Stockton, CA in 2016). For Cal fans not in the area, unfortunately, only the two matches against Stanford are scheduled to be broadcasted by the Pac-12 Networks.

Bears battled Stanford tough in 2016 by got edged 3–2 in PK in addition to two 2–0 decisions. Hopefully, the Golden Bears can triumph over Stanford at least once in 2017.

Thoughts on the new uniform (clearly, this is why you’re reading my posts): In place of “California” in block letters in the chest, the new field hockey uniform will have the script “California” instead. The Sather stripes are quite prominent in these uniforms. I think these uniforms looks sharp.

Rest of the Pac: The four West Coast Field Hockey teams are Cal, Stanford, UC Davis, and Pacific. None of the four will likely be a national championship contender anytime soon. Stanford in the last decade has overtaken Cal as the lone ranked West Coast teams (typically in the 10s), but there is still quite a gap to the favorites. An apt analogy would be to compare Stanford/Cal (at their best) as Princeton in Men’s Water Polo.

Danger level of being cut (new for the 201718 season):

What might prevent Cal Field Hockey from being considered in the early rounds of sports cut is probably the recent lawsuit. Being one of just four West Coast teams also mean that the other three (Stanford, UC Davis, and Pacific) desperately need the Cal program to be around for scheduling purposes.