Another big matchup. Volleyball superstar Carli Lloyd v. prolific basketballer Alexis Gray-Lawson. Carli Lloyd had a bye to this point. Alexis Gray-Lawson defeated Shane Vereen in the first round.
You can see the entire bracket here. Full write ups after the jump. Voting ends this Friday, so go and vote. GO BEARS!
Carli Lloyd (2)
From BTown85: "The anchor of Cal's Pac-10 Champion women's v-ball team and National POY, leading the Golden Bears to the NCAA Finals only to lose (again) to Penn St. What a stud !!!!"
She is only the second player in Cal women's volleyball history to be a three-time All-American, and the only setter to win AA honors. This past year, she led the Bears to a program best 30-win season, their first-ever Pac-10 championship, and their first-ever national championship match. In recognition for her amazing play, she was also named the National AVCA Player of the Year. She is the first Cal woman to ever earn this prestigious award.
"Carli Lloyd and Meagan Schmitt, the lone seniors on the Cal volleyball team, were taking a walk on Sunday night, only hours after the NCAA tournament bracket was released.
The cool, crisp November air seemed to hint at the end of the season, the end of the year ... but also the beginning of a new one.
Suddenly Schmitt stopped. She turned to her friend and roommate and asked her if she would be satisfied with getting to the final four, like they did as freshmen in 2007.
"Would that be enough for you?" she inquired.
Lloyd looked at her and answered with the intensity that has become her trademark quality in four years at Cal.
"Absolutely not," she said. "I can't imagine anything other than winning.""
As a representative for the US, she helped Team USA win two gold medals and bronze medal. She is the only three-time selection to the USA A2 National team in the program's history. Now that she has graduated, Carli is working out with the U.S. Women's National Training Team in hopes of making the 2012 Olympic team.
Alexis Gray-Lawson (10)
norcalnick has been covering AGL all career long, and he gives the footnotes as to why she should be a Hall of Famer.
When she’s on, one of the most dominating offensive players in Cal history. Holds the single game record for points (47, in double OT). Played arguably the single greatest offensive game in Cal history when she scored 37 of Cal’s 54 points to defeat top 10 Stanford. Also a great defender and was named to the Pac-10’s all defense team. Leads Cal in career games played. 3rd most career points in Cal history. Most 3 pointers made in Cal history.
There are plenty more stories like that this year. She started Pac-10 play on a hot streak.
Maybe playing a brutal schedule that included 4 teams ranked in the current AP top 10 prepared the Bears for the rest of the Pac-10. Maybe 12 games was enough time for the freshmen to get comfortable enough in the offense to allow Lexi to play to the level she was always capable of. Maybe this is just the mother of all hot streaks (though I doubt it). Whatever the reason, her performances speak for themselves. To wit:
FGs 3 pt. FG FTs Pts Rbds Asts TOs vs. UCLA 6-16 3-5 5-11 20 8 1 4 vs. USC 8-14 2-5 2-2 20 8 1 2 vs. Washington 7-14 0-4 5-7 19 3 1 1 vs. Washington St. 11-22 3-7 4-6 29 6 1 2 vs. Oregon 7-17 1-5 4-4 19 4 0 3 vs. Oregon St. 13-31 4-7 17-20 47 3 2 4 Percentage/Average 46% 39% 74% 25.67 5.33 1 2.67
Alexis Gray-Lawson: Last 6 games
She's shooting spectacularly (effective field goal percentage of 51.3), she's drawing fouls, she's getting to the line, and she's not turning the ball over much despite handling the ball on essentially every possession. She's dominating despite being the clear number one option for opposing defenses to focus on. She's dominating despite playing more than 35 minutes a game and playing the entire 50 minutes of Saturday's double OT barn-burner.
After Washington made one of two free throws, the magic began. Cal began the next possession with 1:41 left and Natasha Vital missed a 3 pointer near the end of the shot clock. Who was in the perfect position for the offensive board? Alexis Gray-Lawson, of course. Twenty-four seconds later she was dribbling the ball on the right wing, stopped, and launched a contested three pointer. Swish. Four point lead. Washington, to their credit, refused to go down easily. The Huskies scored 8 points in the final 50 seconds around 4 Natasha Vital free throws to send the game to overtime. The final three pointer, a buzzer beating shot from the left corner by Sami Whitcomb, was over a clearly pained and fatigued Gray-Lawson. Ooooovertime!
Fast forward to 1:38 in overtime. Both teams have traded a bucket and a bunch of turnovers. Lexi was clearly diminished with her sprained ankle - she had not attacked the hoop during overtime and even missed two free throws. Then she again received the ball on the right wing, dribbled the ball through her legs a couple times, spotted up and launched a three with a defender in her face. Swish. (I'd like to note that I spontaneous yelled "SHE IS SO [expletive] AWESOME" after both of Lexi's clutch 3's). This time Cal would maintain their lead as UW missed a few 3 pointers and Cal sank their free throws. Victory!
Gray-Lawson has had the ability to take over games for periods of time in previous seasons, but she was rarely the first scoring option when Ashley Walker emerged as an elite player when Gray-Lawson injured her knee in the 2006-07 season. With Walker leading Cal in scoring Gray-Lawson became more of a distributor to Cal’s successful low-post players and recorded nearly a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio in 2008-09. With Walker and Devanei Hampton graduating, the offensive burden fell to Gray-Lawson. At times the transition was difficult this year as Gray-Lawson adjusted to playing with five freshman and to being the clear number one threat on the Golden Bears. But when Pac-10 play started Gray-Lawson took over, combining her outside shooting talent with a hard nosed ability to drive the ball and draw fouls, and she led the conference in scoring during the Pac-10 schedule. I would attribute the scoring explosion to Gray-Lawson getting comfortable in her new role and more cohesion with the aforementioned freshmen.