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Golden Medals: Cal Women’s Soccer moves up in rankings as Pac-12 play starts

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And more in your weekly recaps/look-aheads in the world of Cal Olympic Sports

Cal Women’s Soccer is ready for Pac-12 play to start this weekend.
Cal Women’s Soccer Twitter (Ariel Nava)

It was another great week for Cal Athletics - nearly undefeated again for the second week, other than a 5 set close loss by Cal Volleyball to Pacific on Sunday. Quick glance at the headers below will show that all of the Cal teams are having some nice looking winning records.

We will start this week’s post with Cal Women’s Soccer, who not only dominated a ranked team (3-0 win over then No.14 Oklahoma State) but also will begin Pac-12 play this Saturday from Seattle.


Streaking Cal Women’s Soccer (7-1) to open Pac-12 play at UW

Roll On You Bears! Cal Women’s Soccer are in the middle of a 5 match winning streak as Pac-12 play starts this weekend.

In the Coaches’ poll, Golden Bears are now ranked 13th in the country, up from No.17 last week. In the HERO Sports ranking (formerly BennettRank), the Bears are 14th.

Bears will take on host Washington (7-2) at 7 PM PT from Seattle on Saturday night. The match will have a FREE online stream. While the Huskies are not ranked in the top 25 (like 5 other Pac-12 teams, including the Golden Bears), they are one of two (Colorado) other Pac-12 schools receiving votes in the Coaches’ poll. Huskies are lead by redshirt senior Sarah Shimer in goal who has 6 shutouts already this year; they also have a big upset 1-0 win over 2nd ranked Florida.

Last week, the Bears posted two shutouts behind senior goalkeeper Emily Boyd, who now has 30 clean sheets in her Cal career, extending her Cal program record.

Cal 2, Oklahoma 0

Oklahoma picked up a red card early in this one when a Sooner player took out Cal sophomore Abi Kim. Despite dominating possessions, the Bears didn’t get on the board until junior Miranda Nild scored her 4th goal of the season, tying Kim for the team lead. Swedish freshman Emma Westin added a 2nd goal in the closing minute of the match for the final margin.

Cal 3, Oklahoma State 0

Somewhat disappointingly, the clash between the two ranked team was not televised. Nonetheless, the Golden Bears looked very good in this one, outshooting the Cowgirls 16 to 6 on the match. Bears scored the first goal just before the half when sophomore Mia Corbin scored her 1st of the season. Guro Bergsvand and Heather Walleigh added goals in the 2nd half for the Bears as both tallied their first goal of the season.

With the two dominant wins, Golden Bears swept the Pac-12 awards for the week.

Freshman midfielder Westin was named the Pac-12 offensive player of the week. Senior defender Indigo GIbson was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the week. Senior Emily Boyd, with her 3rd and 4th clean sheets of the year, earned the Pac-12 goalkeeper of the week honor.

Assessing Cal Women’s Soccer before Pac-12 play

I had fairly high hope for Cal Women’s Soccer entering the 2017 season, the Bears have lived up to it thus far. The veteran backline and goalkeeping have allowed just 4 goals on the year thus far. Bears have also found some offense with Abi Kim and Miranda Nild leading the way in goals. Freshman midfielder Westin has already been a difference maker. Bears will also get back another freshman in Daisy Cleverley who was called up to the New Zealand national team, joining Cal alum Betsy Hassett who earned her 100th cap recently, for their two friendlies against USWNT this past week.

By the way, this is a nice segue to note that Cal Women’s Soccer alum Alex Morgan scored a brace against New Zealand in her last game with USWNT to increase her total to 77th international goal, good for 7th most in USWNT history. After injuries slowing her international goal pace, it is great to see Morgan regaining her top goal scoring form.

In the two matches against New Zealand, Morgan has scored three goals. That last one, in particularly, is a thing of beauty.

As Morgan and her Orlando Pride NSWL team finishing up their season, it is perhaps apt to bring it back to Cal Women’s Soccer and mention how the 2017 College Cup final will take place in Orlando this year, at the home of the Orlando Pride. No doubt Alex Morgan would love to see the Golden Bears make it to her new backyard.

Before I would be comfortable in predicting a deep playoff run for Cal, it would be quite interesting to see how competitive the Bears will be in the Pac-12 race this year.

Of course, the Pac-12 conference is pretty good in women’s soccer, surpassing the ACC (buoyed by the dominance of North Carolina in this sport) as the new leader of the “Pac” in college women’s soccer.

In recent years, Cal Women’s Soccer has raised their level agains the top Pac-12 opponent but also found themselves on the short end against the more middle of the Pac opponents. A contending Pac-12 play season would be a great precursor to a long overdue deep NCAA run, given all the talent that has come through Berkeley. Should the Bears be able to keep up the same level all year long as against OK State, a match that head coach Neil McGuire said was the Bears’ “most measured performance of the season”, we are in for a special year.

After the match at UW this Saturday, the Golden Bears will open home Pac-12 play on Thursday at 4 pm PT against Arizona State. Bears are 5-0 at home this year at Edwards Stadium, amidst talks of Edwards being turn into student dorms in the near future to partially pay for the current Athletics budget deficit.


Cal Men’s Soccer (4-2) does just enough to win matches

Soccer is one of those sports where the low scoring nature of the matches is a great equalizer. Even when a superior squad is dominating the chances, they may or may not be actually winning on the scoreboard. In all 4 of the Bears’ victories in 2017, they have outscored their opponents by a lone goal. Nonetheless, I’ll take the Bears’ 3 match winning streak ahead of their clash later today (Friday, 4:30 PM PT) against Santa Clara ahead of their Pac-12 opener next Thursday night (8 PM PT) at UCLA (match will be a part of the Pac-12 Networks’s Thursday Futbol).

Cal 1, Yale 0

Bears dominated this match but was only able to win by one goal against a feisty Bulldogs squad. Redshirt senior Jose Carrera-Garcia scored the lone goal in the 51st minute. Check out that fine goal, 1st on the year, in the video below. The Cal defense behind veteran Joshua Morton in front of sophomore goalkeeper Drake Callendar was also outstanding.

Callender is coming off a week as the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week after the Bears won a tough 1-0 match at Portland the previous week. In the Portland victory, Callendar had a career high 9 saves, including on a penalty in the 90th minute to send the match to OT.

Cal 3, San Francisco 2

It was a back and forth match against the Dons for the Bears on the road. Carrera-Garcia scored a penalty early for the Bears but the Dons always found an answer. Junior Shinya Kadono scored his 2nd goal of the match in the 88th minute for the game winner. Kadono’s 3 goals on the season is a team high right now.

If I have time next week, I will have a closer look at Cal Men’s Soccer ahead of their Pac-12 opener at UCLA on Thursday.


Cal Field Hockey (4-3, 1-0 in AE) wins conference opener

Another Cal team with a 3 match winning streak is the rejuvenated Field Hockey program. Golden Bears will put their winning streak on the line as they make their 2nd East Coast trip of the season (and 2nd time in 3 weeks) this weekend when they play Fairfield and Quinnipiac on Saturday and Sunday from Hamden, Connecticut.

With the win streak, the Bears are actually ranked 23rd in the country by HERO Sports.

Cal 4, Pacific 1

It was all-Cal Bears in this America East (always funny to type that) conference opener. Katrina Carter scored her 3rd goal for the Bears in the 6th minute and the Bears never looked back. Mara Gutierrez and Maddie Cleat both scored their first goal within a 3 minute stretch about 25 minutes. Melina Moore added her 3rd of the season later before the Tigers got on the board late. Dutch sophomore Femke Delissen had her team high 5th assist of the season. Sophomore Danielle Mentink, reigning AE Defensive Player of the Week, was the winning goalkeeper for the Bears.

With a goal and an assist, junior Melina Moore earned America East Co-Offensive Player of the Week honor after freshman Megan Rodgers (team high 7 goals) earned that honor along with Freshman of the Week the week prior.

It is great to see Cal Field Hockey having success again after several tough years when the team suddenly lost their home field and had to train at Stanford twice a week.


Cal Volleyball (9-3, 0-1 in Pac-12) to take on Utah on Sunday (1pm PT on P12N)

While the Pac-12 opening Big Spike didn’t go their way, Cal Bears can not dwell too long on that loss at they will face another ranked team in Utah on Sunday. In case you missed it, I wrote my most extensive post to date on Cal Volleyball in that Big Spike preview in the link before.

Prior to the Big Spike, the Bears split its weekend matches against St. Mary’s (4 set win) and Pacific (5 set loss).

Bears have had a pretty good non-conference result but now has to run through the gauntlet that is Pac-12 play. There is no shame in losing in straight sets to the very good Stanford team that won the NCAA last year and has a good shot to repeat. This Sunday’s match is perhaps more telling as the Utes are merely ranked 16th in the country. After the match at Utah, the Bears will return home to host the Arizona schools next weekend. ASU will visit Haas next Friday night.


Cal Men’s Water Polo (8-0) to face season’s 1st real test at Mountain Pacific Invitational

Last but not least, top ranked and the defending NCAA champs Cal Men’s Water Polo just keep on winning. Of course, the Bears will likely face their 1st real challenge this weekend at the Mountain Pacific Invitational in LA this weekend. Bears may finally get to play the 2nd ranked USC, 3rd ranked Stanford, or 4th ranked UCLA (remember when they were in the middle of their NCAA best winning streak of 52 wins just this time last year after winning the 2015 crown in an undefeated season?) this weekend. Bears will open against Air Force today at noon PT.

Last weekend, the Golden Bears took care of business against No.8 Pepperdine and No.13 UC San Diego.

Cal 8, Pepperdine 6

The closest result of the season saw the Bears and the Wave tied at 3 at the half. Bears then outscore Pepperdine 3-1 in the 3rd quarter in an otherwise uncharacteristic offensive match for the typically high scoring Bears. Pepperdine suffered their first loss of the year. At least 7 different players scored a goal for the Bears, including team leader in Luca Cupido (15th) and Odysseas Masmanidis (14th).

Spencer Tagg played goalie for the Bears in this one.

Cal 20, UCSD 10

This is more of a typical result. Bears scored a bunch of goals thanks to transition opportunities and power plays. Cupido and Masmanidis each had a hat trick in this one. Kevin Le Vine was in the cage for this win.

GO BEARS!