January 13, 1997

1996 Season Outlook

The 1996 version of the Cal field hockey team combines both youth and experience. The experience is in the form of 15 veterans who return from a team that won the NorPac Conference championship last season, while the youth comes from 11 of the top high school field hockey players in the state who join the squad this year.

And the combination of the two gives this year's team the potential to be one of the most exciting in recent Cal field hockey history.

"I have higher expectations for the team this year," said Shellie Onstead, who led Cal to a 5-8 record and a fourth consecutive conference title last season. "We are the type of team that will get better as the year goes on. This team is fired up to play."

Eager to jump into action, five freshmen will begin the year on the varsity squad, with several even slated for starting assignments due to their aggressive style of play.

But with so many underclassmen, Onstead will rely on a trio of captains -- seniors Erica Friesen, Cyndi Lee and Kristen Shima -- to exhibit the maturity necessary for a run towards the playoffs.

"I am counting on major contributions from each one of them," said Onstead. "I expect them to be on the field a lot and show the way."

A player who will certainly be key to Cal's offensive success, Friesen is the Bears leading returning scorer after totaling five goals last season. With the remainder of Cal's forwards having scored just one goal in 1995, Friesen's experience will be needed to carry much of the load.

Additional help up front will come from junior Jennifer Grossman, an all-conference performer last season who will move from right to left wing to take advantage of her scoring prowess. Also expected to see plenty of action on Cal's forward line are sophomore Rachelle Hovig and freshman Megan Sainsbury.

In the midfield, sophomores Becky Bewley and Kathy Fouts are two of the more improved members of the team and, after appearing in just a handful of games last year, will play significantly more in '96. Freshman Sara Baron, although a newcomer to the Bears, played herself into a varsity position during preseason training camp.

With seniors Lee and Shima anchoring the Cal's backfield, the Bears defense could be the strength of the team this fall. In addition, senior Elke Popp, who earned All-NorPac honors last year, may also move to midfield at times to capitalize on her scoring ability.

In goal, junior Karen Hagan enters her third season as a starter. In her first two years, she accumulated nine shutouts, giving up less than two goals per game despite playing through several injuries. Her backup, sophomore Kelly Crowley, allowed a conference-low 0.78 goals per game in four contests in '95.

The Bears have a road test set for themselves early in the season as Cal plays five of its first seven games on the road, including contests against highly regarded Northwestern, Boston University and Miami (Ohio). If they can survive that test, the Bears don't leave the confines of Kleeberger Field until the West Collegiate Tournament in mid-November.

And by that time, the inexperience of the 11 freshmen may be a thing of the past.