There are 101 NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse teams on the East Coast, as opposed to the six West Coast teams that make up the majority of the Pac-12, including the Bears. Nevertheless, the Bears (1-4) accept the challenge of unfamiliar foes as they prepare to host their third straight nonconference and East Coast opponent in American University (3-2).
Formerly the associate head coach of the Temple Owls from 2015-2022, Cal’s new head coach Jennifer Wong is beginning to provide Cal with much needed experience. Given her encounters with fierce East Coast competition, coach Wong leads the Bears with a level-headed approach against their unfamiliar opponents.
“I don’t believe any of the players on our team have ever played Howard or American. It’s nice to go up against people that you don’t know quite as well, you get to meet some new people and see some different styles,” said Wong. “More than East Coast-West Coast, it’s just really exciting when you get to play new opponents.”
In addition to the struggles that may arise in facing an infrequent opponent such as American University, the Bears will have to find a way to slow an Eagle attack that has gotten off to a hot start in 2023.
At .467, the Eagles are posted as having the second-highest team shooting percentage in the Patriot League. In comparison, the Bears are shooting just .401, but are allowing only .415 to their opponents. If Cal can maintain its defense and increase its shot percentage, however, it can have a strong chance of coming out with a win.
From an individual perspective, Cal will need to account for American’s best attacker in sophomore Maddy Spratt. Spratt is coming off of an excellent debut season in 2022, where she reset the Eagles’ freshmen single season assists record (28) while leading the team. Spratt is currently leading American with 13 goals and six assists through five games.
“American is a great test in terms of what we’ve been planning for and working on. They have a really good offensive system,” said Wong. “It’ll be a really good battle … and I think we match up against them similarly. And then it’ll just be about who can execute their gameplan best on Sunday.”
The Bears will look to match Spratt and the Eagles’ high-powered offense with quality performances of their own. Cal’s offense continues to be paced by midfielders Mya Wang and Maya Lawliss. Through five games, Wang leads the team with six assists, while Lawliss leads with 12 goals. Combining for 27 points, Wang and Lawliss are producing 36% of the Bears’ point total.
Looking ahead, the Bears aim to show their preparedness for the upcoming Pac-12 conference schedule.
“Everything that we’ve been doing over the past two weeks is leading up to both Howard and American, as well as Colorado and Oregon the following weekend. Now that we’ve had time to practice and game plan … our job is to see how well we can execute,” Wong said.
A win against American University on Sunday would push the Bears into a favorable position heading into strong Pac-12 competition.