Cal (18-12) vs. 12 seed Wisconsin (24-9)
4 p.m. PT
Bears are in their 12th consecutive years in the NCAA tournament but has not advanced beyond the first round since 2010 when they went all the way to the championship match. Only Adrienne Gehan remains from that team, but that's still more experience than the young Wisconsin team that are in the tournament for the first time since 2007.
Not sure what to expect before yesterday, the Bears looked very good against a solid North Carolina squad. Bears swept UNC 25-20, 25-18, 25-20 behind great hitting percentage all around for the match and some solid tough serving. Given a late slide due to injuries, you knew that the Bears were not going to get a 1st round gimme game like a seeded team, but that was not an issue for the Bears against the Tar Heels where the Bears were able to pull away each set at the mid-point and never had to really worry.
Wisconsin also had an easy match against Milwaulkee, who had a hard time returning serves. Wisconsin is in the first year of coach Kelly Sheffield's tenure. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Lauren Carlini is the setter for the Badgers with 10.87 assists/set. Junior Ellen Chapman and freshman Haleigh Nelson are the main attackers.
Coach Rich Feller finally got his 600th career win yesterday, becoming only the 29th coach in Division I history to get to that mark. Congrats to Coach Feller on this achievement!
About the Bears (from yesterday's preview):
Somewhat similar to the Cal Men's Soccer, Cal Volleyball kind of faltered down the stretch after it was clear that they have secured a NCAA tournament berth. Just like how Cal Men's Soccer's senior captain Steve Birnbaum got hurt and was rested for the postseason, Cal Volleyball's senior captain Adrienne Gehan has also missed most of the past three weeks. Gehan actually returned for a little bit for the Big Spike but only played a few rotations in the first few sets.
What makes the late Cal slide (5 match losing streak to end the regular season) that much more worrisome is that starting middle blocker/outside hitter Lara Vukasovic and outside hitter Michelle Neumayr both also missed time due to injury and illness. Bears either gave some valuable experiences to some backups (Janelle Jordan, Lindsey Parrott, Sarah Cole) to make a long postseason run (and potential matchup plays) or will have to depends on the youngsters to carry the load. On the other, Christina Higgins has picked up her play as the number one go to player with Gehan out, though Higgins still cannot really play the backrow to be a full rotation player. It would be fun to see both of them playing with full strength.
When things were going well for the Bears, they have shown the remarkable fighting spirit in not conceding any set despite being down. The Bears managed to save an insane (14) set points in a three set sweep of the Utes at Utah earlier this year. The Bears have also pushed the top 5 ranked USC and Washington to a deciding 5th set. At their best, the Bears can play with just about anyone in the country, yet this is also the season where the Bears have suffered some uncharacteristic losses (such as the home losses to Kansas State and the road loss to UC Davis early in the year). Which team will show up today?
Probable Cal Starters
No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr. Hometown
12 Joan Caloiaro S 5-11 Sr. Saratoga, Calif.
5 Adrienne Gehan OH 6-3 Sr. Dallas, Texas
18 Michelle Neumayr OH 6-1 So. San Mateo, Calif.
23 Christina Higgins OPP 6-2 Jr. Inglewood, Calif.
1 Lillian Schonewise MB 6-3 So. Papillion, Neb.
4 Lara Vukasovic MB 6-5 So. Zagreb, Croatia
9 Maddy Kerr L 5-7 Fr. San Diego, Calif.
Adrienne Gehan was not at her top form yesterday, but Michelle Neumayr's play (and the rest of the Bears) really made that a non-issue. Should the Bears advance further, you would think that Gehan would only get better with more time to recover.
SF Chronicle has a feature story on Cal libero Maddy Kerr. Here is an interesting excerpt on Maddy's famous father, Steve Kerr.
Twenty-five years ago, Maddy's father, Steve Kerr, was a sharp-shooting guard on an Arizona team that would reach the Final Four with such players as Sean Elliott, Tom Tolbert and Kenny Lofton.
In 1988, at the behest of a high school chum who was then a Cal student and writing for the Daily Californian, Kerr wrote a guest column for the newspaper in which he poked fun at Cal students and likened the school's Straw Hat Band to Shakey's Pizza employees.
So when Arizona came to old Harmon Gym for a game against Cal in February 1988, the Straw Hat Band presented to Kerr a pizza festooned with tuna and, as was its custom in those days, designated him its "Tuna of the Night" and serenaded him with elongated chants of "Tuuuuuuu-na!" every time he touched the ball.
"It was actually really fun," said Kerr, now an NBA analyst on TNT after a 15-year playing career in which he won five league championships, three with Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls and two with the San Antonio Spurs. Kerr finished with a career shooting percentage of .454 from three-point range.
On Maddy Kerr herself:
"She's made for that position," Cal coach Rich Feller said. "We recruited her for that position. She has great athletic ability, for one. She has really good quickness. The hand-eye coordination is very acute. She also has the personality to be aggressive yet somewhat compassionate. She understands her teammates. As a libero, you're out there all the time."
Next up? Should the Bears advance, they would play a surprising Florida State in the Illinois Regional. FSU upset 5th seed Florida in 5 sets yesterday and the 5th set (the only part of that match that I saw) was not even close.