Established in 1892, the Big Game is one of the oldest traditions in football. Every single year on this highly anticipated day, Cal and Stanford face off on the gridiron for the ultimate bragging rights and opportunity to “bring home the axe!”
This week, the Big Game won’t be happening on the football field but instead the fútbol field. Cal Men’s Soccer travels to Stanford to add another chapter to one of the oldest rivalries in sports. Even though this game contains critical undertones, the Bears prepare just as they have all season.
“We know they’re a good opponent, but just like every other game this season, we take it one game at a time, knowing the next one we have is the most important and nothing else matters,” said fifth year Jonathan Estrada.
Stanford boasts a historically great soccer program, presenting a challenge for its blue and gold opponent. The Cardinals have won the Pac-12 conference title 7 times since 2014, while in three of those years have also taken home the national championship. They had a down year last year by their standards, only going 6-6-6 which held them outside the top 25 in the national poll. This year they looked to have righted the ship and have come out 5-0-3, currently holding the ninth spot this year in the top 25.
Cal, while not inside the top 25 rankings, has put together a solid season of its own. Just coming off a win against Saint Mary’s, the blue and gold are 3-2-3 and are hungry for more. Cal has played solid defense all season long thus far and is efficient when scoring opportunities present themselves. Regardless, they should expect a near perfect performance this Thursday if they want to hand ninth ranked Stanford its first loss of the season.
Rivalry games bring the extra juice and crazier things have happened. The atmosphere and energy is different playing against your rival, and the victory will taste just a little sweeter. The atmosphere and energy could be in Cal’s favor Thursday night, despite the audience being a hostile away crowd. Channeling that energy of the rivalry game could propel them into success on the field and potentially a win.
“[The rivalry] just brings out the best of both teams, and I think both teams are gonna be up for it,” said Estrada. “It’s a high intensity game, there’s going to be lots of energy and at their place too there’s going to be a lot of fans, which just adds to the atmosphere”
For first year Cal head coach Leonard Griffin, it has been a pretty good start to the season. Already equalling their win total from all of last season, he has kept them motivated and put them in a position to compete in every game.
The Bears face a tough test this week facing their bitter rival on unfamiliar territory, but they are up for the challenge. Coming off a win last weekend, they look to push their win streak to two and hand Stanford its first loss of the season.