For the third year in a row, Cal women's volleyball fell to Penn St in the elite eight round of the NCAA tournament. Penn St has now won 100 games in a row and last year did not lose a single set until the final four. Those are some phenomenal accomplishments. Now let's see if Cal can avoid Penn St's bracket next year.
"Our team can hold their heads high," Cal coach Rich Feller said. "We made it a long way, we were the only team remaining from the Pac-10 and there are only four teams that have made it as far as we did in the last three years."
For facing a team approaching a triple-digit winning streak, the Bears turned in a solid performance. Cal had trouble tracking Alyssa D'Errico's spin serve -- she had five aces -- and experienced some occasional confusion along the net. Otherwise, Cal played Penn State close for the majority of the match.
It was the runs that cost Cal a chance at the victory.
"For the most part we hung with them," Feller said. "We'd get point for point, they'd get two or three, we'd go point for point, they'd get three and the game would be over."
The Bears received a much-improved showing from outside hitter Hana Cutura, who had struggled with Penn State in the past two seasons. An All-American likely to win the award again this season, Cutura had hit negative in both the 2007 and 2008 matches against the Nittany Lions.
Cutura's 16 kills led the Bears today. Freshman Correy Johnson played like she was a tournament regular, hammering home seven kills in 12 attempts and at one point, stuffing potential tournament MVP Megan Hodge for a block assist.
Despite continually playing aggressively and avoiding major dry-spells, the Bears struggled to keep up with Penn State's physical play and seemingly error-less volleyball.
"Penn State does not make mistakes," Feller said. "They are a very low-error team and they've got so many physical weapons offensively that if you don't get a chance right away they've got a 50/50 chance or better of getting a kill."
The team was clearly disheartened by the loss, Feller described himself as "getting over it," but how exactly is it for the same team to end your season three times?
"I wouldn't be surprised if (Penn State) walked out with their third national championship," senior libero Kristen Kathan said. "It's the third year in a row we got stuck in their bracket, but when you go out, you want to go out against the best."
After the jump I have all the latest info on Cal's 5-star rush linebacker recruit Chris Martin, an update on the announcement of Best's status, updates on football practice, a look at why the Poinsettia Bowl means so much to Utah (and why Sofele is so determined to beat Utah), the ESPN Pac-10 All-Freshman team, JO's Heisman ballot, and more. The GN will take a break tomorrow and will return Wednesday with more practice updates, info on Martin, and any other news that breaks between now and then.
- 5-star recruit Chris Martin has given a verbal commitment to Cal. Best of all, his mother Cheryl is certain he will end up at Cal. She said "Well, he's coming back home [Martin is an Oakland native] and this is solid. We're not going to do anymore visits or entertain anyone coming by." Like Tedford says, if you win over the mom, you'll definitely get the recruit. JO spoke to Martin on the phone today and learned that he is being recruited as a rush LB. Could Chris Martin be the heir apparent to Zack Follett?
- On Sunday or Monday Tedford was supposed to make an announcement regarding Best, but such an announcement is not set to come down today. With the team off until Wednesday, that may be the soonest we hear about it.
- Cal is the narrow winner in ESPN's bowl simulator. Cal wins 51% of the time and averages 28 points to Utah's 27.
- D'Amato, Hill, and Tipoti were named to Ted Miller's Pac-10 All-Freshman team.
- After suffering an emotional letdown after Riley was named the starter, Mansion embraces the underclassmen-focused practices that have occurred over the last few days. He hopes to work his way back up the depth chart by reminding the coaches of his presence with his performance at practice.
- The Utes are proud of their 8-game winning streak in bowl games and look forward to extending it to 9. Utah safety Joe Dale is especially excited about the game. The Poinsettia Bowl is a special event for him, as he was its defensive MVP in 2007.
- A Salt Lake City native, Sofele grew up rooting for the Utes and embraces the chance to defeat them next week. A couple of his former high school teammates are freshmen on Utah and the trash talking has already begun. As fast as he is, Isi still hasn't beaten his dad Hui Sofele, running backs coach at Cottonwood High, in one of their customary summertime races.
- JO's Heisman ballot was as follows: Gerhart, Tebow, McCoy.
- Theo Robertson talks about returning to the court against Pacific and preparing for Kansas. After being a bit rusty in the first half, he started getting back in the flow of things in the second half. Best of all, he feels great and has no pain.
- PC earned Pac-10 player of the week honors for his two consecutive 20-10 performances.