Despite the difficult start to the Cal lacrosse season, culminating in an abysmal 0-5 opening record, the Bears are looking forward to the important next stretch of games. With five of their next six matches in the month of March being Pac-12 conference games, the Bears are intent on putting their rocky start behind them.
Coming off of the bye week following the UC Davis game, Cal looks to be refreshed and refocused heading into a doubleheader weekend featuring rivals the Stanford Cardinal on Friday, March 11, and the Liberty Flames two days later Sunday, March 13.
At practice, head coach Brooke Eubanks stressed the much needed relief of the bye week heading into a pivotal stretch in the Cal lacrosse season. “It was good timing for us to be able to take advantage of a physical break and also a mental break.” Eubanks said. “It’s been nice to be able to take a break and focus on ourselves as far as recovery (such as) deloading our legs because the season is tough.”
Team captain and senior Catherine Roxas echoed Eubanks’ remarks. “(The bye week) was a critical time to hit the reset button. We’ve been channeling our core values this week, making sure our minds are right and our bodies are right so we are able to take the game plan and execute it.”
The Bears first head down the peninsula to face a Stanford team who has also struggled to start the season strong. Stanford boasts only a single win in its first five games, despite entering the season ranked No. 13 in the country. But based on last season’s series, Stanford has little to fear from the Bears as the Cardinal swept Cal in both conference games in 2021.
Still, the Bears aren’t concerned with the past. Realistically, they cannot afford to dwell on their five losses, nor whatever happens versus Stanford because they face a red-hot Liberty team coming off of three very impressive wins in their last four games. Although they lost to No.12 Florida on March 9th, they hold victories over Virginia Tech, Old Dominion, and Robert Morris. Luckily for the Bears, they will face Liberty in their third game in five days, a team that could be depleted physically by the time they enter Memorial Stadium.
But an exhausted opponent can only get you so far. The Bears have to maintain an air of consistency if they want to have a chance of winning this weekend. Against UC Davis the previous week, Cal had their moments of excellence, from being aggressive with its shots to maintaining a tightly knit defense that held the Aggies in check. “Winning the quarter,” Eubanks echoed. “Focusing on small chunks of the game and being able to string winning those quarters back to back.
This Bears team is highly capable of meeting Eubanks’ vision for the team. “In this tough beginning stretch, (the role of the captains) is to remind all of our teammates of the work that we have done and the small victories we have seen so far,” Roxas said, speaking to the team’s morale thus far. “Keep(ing) them motivated to show up to practice everyday and help to work towards our common goal of winning games.”
If you need further proof of what Eubanks described as the team’s “resiliency,” look no further than the work the team has put in during the hours outside of practice. In the sunny afternoon of Tuesday, March 8, the entire team was working on shooting and passing drills before practice had even begun.
“Busy day; I go from 11 to 3:30!” Roxas told me before I asked my prepared questions. “And then 3:30 to 6:45!” She said in unison with Eubanks, the pair laughing.
The buy-in is there. The commitment is there. Now it’s a matter of whether the Bears can put it all together to find a win in the coming days.