Coming off of a tight loss against Pac-12 No. 1 UCLA, the Cal women’s soccer team will be traveling back to sweltering Arizona for two more highly anticipated conference games against University of Arizona and Arizona State University. The two teams have an extensive history against Cal, studded with wins and losses, but in both of their most recent games since 2021, the Arizona teams lost to Cal’s top recruiting class in the country.
First up is the Arizona State Sun Devils. Cal is set to face them Thursday at the Sun Devil Soccer Stadium. Arizona State has a record of 5-0-2 this far into the season, heading toward the conference season without a single loss. This currently ranks it at No. 17 in the NCAA women’s soccer season standings, whereas Cal sits at No. 49.
Like the Bears, ASU has many recurring appearances from 2021 players, including multiple fifth-year players with a great deal of experience. Midfielder Eva van Deursen is one of these fifth-years with the Sun Devils, and has propelled their season thus far with four goals and three assists in the seven games that she’s played.
Not only that, but the Sun Devils have their star-forward Nicole Douglas, who was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week last week. Douglas made the NCAA All-American Third Team in 2021, proving to be an incredibly difficult opponent with an astounding total of 55 career goals.
However, Cal has similarly recurring strong players, including Ayo Oke, who, assisted by Anysa Gray, scored the only goal of the game on Arizona State the last time they were matched in 2021. Cal’s unyielding defense studded with Oke, as well as widely accomplished goalkeeper Angelina Anderson, will prove taut against Arizona State’s overwhelmingly impressive offensive squad. With the weather in the opposite extreme this time around, at more than 100 degrees, the playing field has evened for both teams.
The following Sunday, the Bears will travel to Tucson to play the University of Arizona Wildcats. Arizona stole a win from Cal in April 2021. Only six months later, however, the Wildcats were defeated with an overtime goal by forward Karlie Lema.
In the current season, the Wildcats are at a lackluster 3-3-2 overall. This season specifically features two losses against Cal’s roster of already-toppled teams such as Pepperdine and San Diego State. The Sunday game will mark the 23rd time the two teams are thrown in the ring, with only five wins for Arizona and a striking 15 for Cal.
Akin to the Sun Devils and Bears, the Wildcats return 18 players from their 2021 season. However, their strength may lie with a new face in freshman Sami Baytosh, who has made two goals out of her eight total shots. Her goal against UC Davis, the sole one of the game, went viral on Twitter, with an impressive bicycle kick to score.
Arizona has also collected similar accolades, including major Pac-12 recognitions for their defense. Team captains Madison Goerlinger and goalkeeper Hope Hisey each earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors in August.
Among the Devils and Wildcats of the Arizona desert, the Bears may be outside of their territory. However, with an outstanding performance thus far into the season, it seems the Bears may be able to tame the wild animals.