Back In Camp: Women's Soccer
The Cal women's soccer team opened up a more conventional training camp on Tuesday, eager to improve on the results from a challenging spring season and equipped with one of its deepest squad in years.
The Bears went 5-7-1 in the delayed 2020 season, as they dealt with all of the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic provided. With all but one starter returning, the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, and the comfort of a more normal competition calendar, Cal expects the internal and external competition to help boost the team to great heights.
"The results of the spring were not what we wanted, but the performances were very good," Cal head coach Neil McGuire said. "I think the depth of the team this year is very strong. There is going to be a lot of competition in practices and games. Because of that, there is an edge in their play."
Sports teams on all levels have spent the past 18 months navigating unprecedented uncertainty, and the Bears acknowledge that a return to normalcy should augment the team's chances for success on the field. While there are still COVID-19 challenges to negotiate, Cal will be playing a normal schedule during the normal time of year in a more normal environment.
"There are less stressors outside of soccer, but it's still there," said Cal defender Emily Smith, a two-time All-Pac-12 performer who was drafted by Racing Louisville of the NWSL but decided to return to the Bears for a final season. "But we are all excited to be back at Edwards (Stadium) and have fans back. Now we know what to expect. I think we are more confident coming into the season, and just ready to get after it."
While the Bears' win-loss record wasn't where they wanted it to be, McGuire felt the way the team dealt with the challenges resulted in a more cohesive, unified group. He is confident Cal will be able to pay that team chemistry forward during the upcoming fall season.
"The team was very together last year," McGuire said. "Relationships were incredible. Their ability to handle the challenges in a mature fashion and just kind of take it one step at a time was impressive. They were dealing with a whole host of things they weren't used to, so I think the cohesiveness and unity were the two things that were most impressive."
The Bears' experience and ability is headlined by junior goalie Angelina Anderson, the 2019 National Freshman of the Year and an All-Pac-12 Second Team pick last season. Smith and fellow fifth-year senior Emma Westin are all-conference players while defender Maya Evans and forward Amaya Gray were each Pac-12 All-Freshman Team selections last season.
The 14-member freshman class was ranked No. 1 in the country by TopDrawerSoccer and features three recruits ranked in the top-50.
"They just add new energy," Smith said. "They are physical and athletic and are going to make us all better. With the new class, there is so much more competition. That's just going to make everyone better at every position."