The Cal lacrosse team (4-11) has started to show signs of a late-season comeback, and only two teams stand in its way of completing a surge. After an eventful weekend, featuring a win against UC Davis and a loss against Stanford, the Bears sit fifth in the MPSF table as of April 16, which qualifies them for the conference tournament. Needing to stay in the top six, Cal must face its next challenger, Fresno State (9-6), on Friday and attempt to maintain, or possibly improve, its standing.
“We are pretty excited — the fact that we are kind of in control of our own destiny to get into the MPSF tournament,” said Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks. “If we can win these next couple of games we will be in, and obviously that’s a huge thing because it’s not like we are waiting on someone else. That’s kind of been our focus, and we are really proud of how we have kind of turned the season around.”
The Bears lost seven of nine games in the first half of their season, which seemed to guarantee them a bottom-of-the-table standing. In the latter half of its season, when Cal played almost all of its conference games, it has lost a marginally better four of six games, many of which have been close matches and against much more competitive opponents.
But whatever the results, Cal has looked better in the past few games than it has all year. Sophomore Caroline Corzel stepped up and has been extremely influential for the Bears on offense. She scored more times in the last two games than the rest of the season combined and has shined as a leader up top.
Senior captain Jena Fritts still leads the team with 50 points, 37 goals and 13 assists, and she was ranked 10th in the conference for most points as of April 16. A few players on the team are competing for most draw controls: junior Meredith Haggerty leads with 32, and junior Chloe Landry, senior Elizabeth Pellechi and senior Elizabeth Koehler follow closely with 31, 24 and 22, respectively. These high numbers and the variety of players are a positive sign for the team, which struggled with goals and draw controls in the beginning of the season.
“(We are) just taking it one game at a time,” Eubanks said. “We are really focusing on what we need to do, our strengths, things we need to work on, and then adding some new stuff that teams haven’t seen before.”
The Bears and the Bulldogs have faced off eight times in their history, and while Cal leads the series 6-2, Fresno State crushed the Bears last season in a 15-5 win. This year, Fresno State is sitting second-to-last in the conference and has a conference record of 2-5. Cal similarly sits at 2-4, and the large difference in their conference standings is due to the quality of the teams defeated.
“We are focusing on those 50-50 options because Fresno is aggressive, feisty and have a lot of heart and hustle when they play,” Eubanks said. “(We are) really just preparing for that and how to counter it, and then focusing on the systems that we need to bring on Friday.”
Although the Bears control their own destiny, this has only increased the pressure on themselves. While they currently qualify for the tournament, the other conference teams are not finished with their seasons, and a change in the standings is bound to occur. This is the Bulldogs’ last game of the season, and they are sure to come out strong to try and cap off a double-digit-win season. Cal must take care of business this weekend in order to have a fighting chance for qualification.