Hana is the best hitter in the country, but can she beat PSU alone?
GO BEARS! The VBall team is red hot right now! They just defeated Baylor to make the NCAA Regional Final. Elite 8!
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The ninth-seeded California volleyball team (21-10, 11-7 Pac-10) defeated Baylor (24-10, 11-9 Big 12) in three sets (26-24, 25-20, 25-17) on Friday, Dec. 11, at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in the 2009 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship Gainesville Regional semifinal. The Golden Bears will advance to the NCAA regional championship match for the third consecutive year where they will face either top-seeded and No. 1-ranked defending champion Penn State (34-0, 20-0 Big Ten) or host No. 14 Florida (25-5, 16-4 SEC). Cal will take the court for the regional final in a 4 p.m. ET match on Saturday, Dec. 12, to be aired live by ESPNU. Please check local listings for availability.
Cal was led by senior outside hitter Hana Cutura's match-high 18 kills (6e, 40att, .300) and senior middle hitter Mindi Wiley's nine kills (2e, 17att, .412) and match-high five blocks (one solo). Sophomore outside hitter Tarah Murrey added eight kills in an efficient performance (1e, 15att, .467) that included six digs. Junior setter Carli Lloyd dished out 38 assists and added three kills (0e, 9att, .333) and eight digs with freshman opposite hitter Correy Johnson as the beneficiary of six of those assists. Johnson finished with six kills (1e, 13att, .385) as Cal logged a .330 attack percentage with 47 kills (13e, 103att) in the match.
Cal now faces Penn State in the Regional Final. It is a place they've been before:
Cal faced a top-seeded and top-ranked Penn State team in the 2008 NCAA University Park Regional championship where it fell in three sets. The Nittany Lions have since extended their winning streak to 98 consecutive victories. In 2007, Cal took on defending NCAA champion Nebraska at a neutral site in the Wisconsin Regional and dethroned the Cornhuskers in a three-set sweep. Only Nebraska, Penn State, Stanford and Texas have also made the NCAA regional final in each of the past two seasons.
Ya, Penn State is good. 98 consecutive victories good. This..........will be tough. PSU is led by coach Russ Rose:
As his team scrimmaged a few courts over, Rose, the Penn State women's volleyball coach, stopped in front of three wooden containers, rolled one aside and boxed himself in near the corner of the gym.
"Welcome to my office," he said.
The moment was classic Rose: humble and down to earth, but delivered with a wit as sharp as his team's record 98-game winning streak, which began in 2007 and has produced two consecutive NCAA championships.
It is the longest NCAA Division I winning streak in women's sports history, and the second longest of all time behind Miami's 137 straight match wins in men's tennis. He recently passed John Wooden's 88-game win streak in men's basketball at UCLA from 1971-74 and North Carolina's 92-game win streak in women's soccer from 1990-94.
"We've been fortunate that we've been on a hot streak as of late," said Rose, 56, who has 997 career wins and has coached here for the last 31 years, 13 shy of Joe Paterno's 44. He's turned down both professional and collegiate jobs in favor of sticking around Happy Valley. (And yes, he does have a real office.)
PRD will stream this match
After the jump, Danzig has provided us with some more in depth analysis that is unremarkably good. I say unremarkably, because his analysis is always top notch and it is no different here. So, read that, comment below, and GO BEARS!
#9 Cal vs #1 Penn State: Sound familiar? We were here in the exact same spot last year. Quarterfinals vs the #1 team in the country. Last year we lost 3-0, but this year is different.
WHY WE WIN: How can I tell I'm a Cal fan? It's because I think we can win. How can others tell I'm a Cal fan? It's because I think we can win.
Streaks are mental hurdles - PSU is looking for their 100th straight win. No bullshit. They can make history if they can just beat us. The 99th win was meaningless. The 100th win, on the other hand, can be a mental hurdle for them. The PSU players know they can be recognized in the Volleyball Hall of Fame if they can beat us. Ahem... no pressure or anything.
They're not the same team - Nicole Fawcett and Christa Harmotto are gone. Those two seniors accounted for over 700 kills last season, or over 40% of their team's total offense.
We have blocking now - Mindi is exploding. Carli is blocking like crazy. We brought in two big freshmen in 6'4 Correy Johnson and 6'3 Kat Brown. Our blocking is 2X better than what it was last year.
WHY WE LOSE: It's pretty obvious to everyone except me.
Best of everything - PSU has the best offense in the country, the best defense and the best record in College Volleyball history, men or women's.
Talent up the wazoo - I honestly can't name you one player on their team that was not a Fab50 recruit, a high school All American, state POY or VB Magazine Senior Ace.
Our offense is one dimensional - Like years past, they will focus exclusively on stopping Hana. Expect Hana to have the lowest output of her season. It will be up to Tarrah, Mindi and Correy to make up the difference.
PSU can dig - They are, by far, the best digging team in the country. Getting an offensive point against them is difficult. It's best to let them make mistakes.
Mindi Wiley (6'3, Middle Blocker, Senior) - She must have a monster performance for us to win. We're going to slide her a lot and probably quick set her in the middle, a ton. We're not very good a quick setting the middle, but it's a risk we have to take vs PSU.
Carli Lloyd (5'11, Quarterback, Junior) - Carli must just be her incredible self. She needs to continue with her drop shots, roll shots and one-handed-sets. Quick setting the middle will be a challenge, but we'll win if she can pull it off. Her serve has been a liability, but if she can serve well, we can swing the match.
Hana Cutura (6'5 Outside Hitter, Senior) - Who's the best hitter in the country? Hana. Who will PSU focus their entire defense on? Hana. She's hitting .320 with 612 kills at 5 kills/set. She also has 64 blocks at .54 blocks/set. These are INSANE numbers. If she can hit to even half her potential this match, we'll have a great chance at an upset.
Tarah Murrey (6'3, Outside Hitter, Soph) - Tarah is our key to victory. She's the only one with enough power to bash through PSU's block. However, she can't aim very well. Fortunately, she's been surging in the last six matches. If she can just continue that streak and hit in the 300s, we got a great shot at winning this thing.
Correy Johnson (6'4, Position Unknown, True Frosh) - We need her to block like she's never blocked before. She's a Florida native so she'll have a huge fan base on hand and a lot of motivation. We'll see.
Rich Feller (5'10, Head Thinking Guy, Old dude) - I think Coach Feller needs to play to win, and not just to survive. This means using high risk plays like quick setting the middle and pipe setting to Hana from the back row. I want to either get blown out badly or win. Nothing in between. PSU has knocked us out of the NCAA tourney the past three years. THE SAME FUCKING TEAM. Enough already. Let's go out swinging.
Penn State is similar to Cal. In fact, we're almost the same, in terms of style. We both run a powerful 5-1, with most of the offense flowing through a single setter and a single hitter (if they want they can switch to a 6-2). The only differences are that they don't make mistakes (very efficient) and they serve extremely well. They also can dig a lot better than we can. Oh yeah, they were also the 2007 and 2008 National Champions.
Megan Hodge (6'3, Outside Hitter, Senior) - Hana is the best hitter in the country. Guess who's the second best? Yup...Megan Hodge. She only has 513 kills to Hana's 612, but those are still insane numbers. She's got a huge arm and they will go to her as much as possible.
Alicia Glass (6'0, Quarterback, Senior) - The only reason Carli isn't the best setter in the NCAA is because of this girl. She is the conensus best setter in the country. She's got moves, hops and she can hit. I'm actually a big fan. I image Alicia and Carli will be battling out in a few years for the starting spot on the US Olympic team.