Building momentum: Cal faces USC, Arizona State in Pac-12 rematches

One win is good, but two wins is even better. And don’t get started on three wins.

Building momentum: Cal faces USC, Arizona State in Pac-12 rematches | The Daily Californian

After finding its first win versus Oregon on Friday last week, Cal hopes to build off that momentum (ignoring the Colorado blowout) as it travels south to face two more Pac-12 rivals in the USC Trojans and the Arizona State Sun Devils.

With only four games left before the Pac-12 championships, now would be the perfect time for Cal lacrosse to start getting hot.

As of today, Cal sits in last place in the Pac-12, tied with Oregon at 1-6 within the conference. The Ducks own the tiebreaker because they won the first game versus Cal by more points. This weekend is of great importance to the Bears if they want to look strong heading into the final stretch of the season.

Meanwhile, USC is absolutely rolling in it right now.

Ranked 13th in the country this week, USC is looking to make a run for the top spot in the conference. Stanford currently leads the conference at 6-1, but USC is right behind them at 4-1, with the Trojans having played two fewer games than their northern rivals. Kelsey Huff is on a tear; she leads the league in 42 goals this year, averaging quite literally a hat trick every game. Huff killed the Bears last game with 6 goals, so they will have to limit her if they want a chance of stopping her.

Down in Arizona, the Sun Devils are coming off of two important milestones.

Arizona State is coming off of an incredible 13-12 overtime win versus then-14th-ranked Rutgers. It was the young program’s first victory over a top-15 team, marking an important milestone for this lacrosse program that only started a few years ago. The second milestone for the Sun Devils was earned by Taylor Pinzone, who was named National Lacrosse Player of the Week by Inside Lacrosse. Pinzone was incredibly clutch in Arizona’s comeback push, finding the back of the net to tie the game with 53 seconds left as well as tallying the assist that won it the game in overtime.

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Cal essentially faces two very hot teams looking for their own glory in the Pac-12. However, the Bears boast their own assortment of players trending up at the right time in the season. For starters, Maya Lawliss has been excellent as of late. In what looks like a breakout season for her, Lawliss has tied her career-best 24 goals this season, with plenty of lacrosse left to play. In the past five games, Lawliss has scored 16 goals, with her scoring multiple goals in each of those games. Lawliss has been one of the best Bears in the months of March and April thus far.

And speaking of Bears looking great in March and April, look no further than Liz Scott, who leads the team with 30 goals. Scott also boasts 16 goals in the last five games, including a career day with seven goals versus the Sun Devils.

Scott spoke about the rematch versus these teams, citing a few key points about the adjustments the Bears have to make.

“We got to start taking control of the constant errors we are making,” Scott said. “Right now, I personally believe all these problems we are having are ours and that’s a great thing because they are fixable, everything here is fixable and every game is winnable.”

Cal faces an arduous task versus two teams in the upper half of the Pac-12. However, based on the Oregon game, we now have physical evidence that this team is capable of winning. What comes next is difficult to predict but one thing is for certain: The Bears are confident in themselves.

“That’s what we are going to work on,” Scott said. “The things we can control and we are going to be just fine. Our record may not show it but we are a tough, gritty team.”

It was a beautiful homecoming for the Bears this past weekend as they went 3-0 in their only three matches in Berkeley this season. The team performed well in front of their home crowd at Clark Kerr Sand Courts, and were able to celebrate their Senior Day in style.

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“It was incredible, it was so nice to show up to our courts, which we’re super comfortable in,” said senior transfer Ashley Delgado. “A huge part of those wins was our crowd, a lot of people showed up and supported us and that contributed to our success.”

The blue and gold began the weekend Friday morning with an absolute route against the University of San Francisco, 5-0. This match was a no doubter against the Dons from across the Bay — a great warm up to welcome the home crowd and showcase the true talent of this team. It also was a low stress game that did not tire them out mentally before their match against No. 16 Cal State Long Beach.

Earlier in the season, the Bears took care of LBSU on the road in what was just their third match for the new team. Before their rematch in Berkeley, the two teams held a lot more games under their belt and had gained more experience.

It was a much closer match than the first game on Friday, as it went down to the wire. The Bears had a come-from-behind win in the third game with Delgado and sophomore Brooke Buchner. The game went to three sets and the pair was down 14-12 in the third. With their backs against the wall, they were able to string together 4 straight points to secure the pair win. The first pair for Cal followed that victory up with a three-set victory of their own that sealed the match against LBSU.

The Bears went 2-0 on Friday, starting their lone home weekend off on a good note. On Saturday, they had a date with UC Davis and a celebration for their seniors in front of the blue and gold faithful.

Before taking on the Aggies, Cal’s seniors were honored with flowers and a ceremony to celebrate their time on the team. Cal then took care of business against Davis and ended with the same result as the previous two times it had seen Davis this year — a dub. The Bears bested the Aggies four sets to one to cap off a weekend of perfection.

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This was an impressive showing for Cal, to say the least. It defended its Bear territory well and put on a great show for the home crowd after edging out two quality opponents in No. 16 LBSU as well as UC Davis. Furthermore, the Bears took them down without an integral piece to their starting lineup in fifth year Mima Mirkovic.

Mirkovic, a member of the first pair, was held out of the weekend’s matches after she went down with an injury the weekend prior. But no Mirkovic was still no problem for the blue and gold. They made the adjustments with the pairs and were still able to come away with three victories.

To be so effective and dominant with one of their best players out says a lot about this team. It’s reassuring to see that Cal volleyball can be able to work on the fly with different partners and still find success.

“It shows how deeply talented our team is,” Delgado said. “That is a huge competitive advantage for us in just how versatile every player is, and a huge part of that is every person on the team was ready to step up in whatever position they needed to.”

Next week, the No. 12 Bears are in for an even bigger challenge. They face four Pac-12 opponents, three of which are within the top eight in national rankings. Cal will head to Stanford to open two games both Saturday and Sunday. Its first opponents will be the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the country in USC and UCLA, respectively. On Sunday, the Bears will then face the No. 9 team in Stanford, along with Utah.

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