Cal Olympics Sports Preview

If you knew Alex Morgan is going to be as successful as she is, would you have gone to a Cal Women's Soccer game? - Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

A preview of the upcoming Cal Women's Soccer, Volleyball, Men's Soccer, and Field Hockey seasons. Bears in action as soon as later today (Friday 8/23). GO BEARS!

While it is mere 8 days until Cal Football kick off the Sonny Dykes era against Northwestern, a few other Cal athletics action actually take place before that game. This season on CGB, we will have a weekly roundup of all the Olympics sports actions on Mondays Wednesdays (starting on September 4th). That post will also serve as a forum for discussions about those teams (in addition to the occasional open threads when the Bears are on Pac-12 Networks or online streams). If it does look like the posts are written by someone who has only glanced at the final boxscores, that is probably not far from the truth. The main hope of the weekly post is to highlight some upcoming key games to our general Cal football audience, so more people may go support the awesome Cal athletes (and possible future Calympians) in other sports.

Let's take a quick glance at the preseason expectations for these Cal teams.

Cal Women's Soccer:

Cal Women's Soccer actually is the first team to kick off the Fall Cal Athletics schedule. They open on the road on Friday (7 PM) at UC Irvine, follow by another road game in Malibu against Pepperdine (rematch of last year's NCAA first round game) on Monday (1 PM) with online video stream (and open thread).

Given the return of several key players (19 players including 9 starters) on a squad that made it to the second round of the NCAA last year and finishe the year with a 16-6-0 overall record (highest win total in Coach Neil McGuire's era), Cal is ranked 18/20 in the preseason rankings.

DATE OPPONENT LOCATION TIME (PT)

Fri, Aug 23 UC Irvine at Irvine, CA 7:00 p.m.
Mon, Aug 26 Pepperdine at Malibu, CA 1:00 p.m.
Fri, Aug 30 Detroit Berkeley, CA 4:30 p.m.
Sun, Sep 01 San Jose State Berkeley, CA 4:30 p.m.

Key returnees for the Bears in 2013 include Senior goalkeeper Emily Kruger (who pretty much played the entire last season except when she got redcarded in a game for handling the ball outside the box), Hermann Trophy (W. Soccer's equivalent of the Heisman) watch list finalist and last year's All Pac-12 first teamer Sophomore forward Ifeoma Onumonu, All Pac-12 second teamer Senior D Emi Lawson, and All Pac-12 honorable mention Senior MF Kaitlyn Fizpatrick.

Out of the 10 newcomers, the most interesting is the addition of former Field Hockey player Rachelle Comeau who gets to play with her sister Taylor. Bears also added highly touted recruits in F Arielle Ship and D Zoe Clark.

7 Cal games will be on TV this year. These are St. Mary’s (9/22 on P12N), Arizona State (10/4 on P12N), USC (10/11 on P12N), UCLA (10/13 on P12N), Oregon (10/28 on P12N), Washington (11/3 on ESPNU), and Stanford (11/6 on P12N).

Finally, the Bears are picked to finish 3rd again in the conference behind UCLA (5th in the nation in coaches' preseason poll) and Stanfurd (3rd in the preseason poll). Bears finished 8-3 in conference last year (including the previously alluded fluky home loss to Arizona where Kruger was redcarded). The pieces are certainly there for the Bears to take that next step into the upper-echelon of the college soccer world. Can the Bears leapfrog Furd and UCLA this year?

Cal Volleyball:

After a season derailed early by injuries but still saw the Bears continue their streak (in rather dramatic fashion) of making it to the NCAA tournament for the school record 11th straight year (but knocked out in the first round again for the second consecutive year), the 2013 Cal Volleyball might just have the right combination of the veterans and youngsters, including both the group of sophomore who got plenty of run last year and the 3 highly touted freshmen, to surprise people in the always tough Pac-12 conference.

Here is your Cal Volleyball squad for 2013:

The biggest offseason news from Cal Volleyball is that Coach Rich Feller has signed an extension through the 2015 season. Undoubtedly the most successful Volleyball coach in Cal Volleyball history, this was a great job by Cal AD Sandy Barbour to lock down Feller for few more years.

For the first time in awhile, the expectations are a bit lower (no preseason ranking for the Bears although they did receive some votes). The reloaded Cal Bears squad is ready to surprise however given all the talent that is on the team.

One of the main problem from 2012 was the season ending injury to the since graduated libero Robin Rostratter (the girl with the distinctive helmet due to her past concussion problem), the defensive QB for the Bears. While now Sophomore libero Mary McKennon valiantly stepped up to play a very good defensive role, the Bears lacked the depth in defensive specialists behind her. For the first time in a long time, the Bears actually got a highly touted defensive recruit in Maddy Kerr (daughter of former NBA player and Zona graduate Steve Kerr), rather than just finding them in more under the radar way. Between McKennon and Kerr, not to mention returnee Marlee Davis and a few freshmen who may also find their way into the rotation, the backline should no longer be a weakness and could become a major strength soon. Sophomore Nikki Gombar can also now be moved back to her more familiar outside hitting role after being pressed into being a defensive specialist last year.

Offensively, the Bears see the return of setter Joan Caloiaro for her second and final year with the team. The cousin of beach volleyball great Kerri Walsh, Caloiaro transferred in to the Cal program last spring to take over the starting setter (the volleyball equivalent of the QB) job. Possibly pushing Caloiaro for the setter spot (or possibly pushes the Bears into playing the two setter offense) is the freshman Alyssa Jensen. Jensen was a part of a Pac-12 traveling team that went to China this past summer. While I would not call her the best setter for Cal since Carli Lloyd yet, it would not be a surprise if Jensen becomes the setter for the Bears before long.

On the outside, Cal returns the core group of senior Adrienne Gehan (who hopefully can stay healthy this year), junior Christina Higgins, and sophomore Lara Vukasovic. Vuksasovic got plenty of run last year, especially with the injuries suffered by Gehan, so she should be in the mix to replace the production of Correy Johnson from last year. Previously high touted recruit and redshirt sophomore Michelle Neumayr is back on the team to give it another go after injuries have prevented her from logging any time on the floor the past two seasons.

Where the Bears may really lack experience is in the middle blocking position with the graduation of the very effective Kat Brown. The third highly touted freshmen Jenelle Jensen is pencilled into the rotation for one of the middle blocker spot. The previously injured redshirt sophomore Lillian Schonewise should also be in the mix. With the blocking being such a strength for the Bears last year, the blocking is likely going to take a step back. The Bears should be improved enough to in other areas to compensate for this though.

With volleyball being one of the charter Pac-12 sports, all conference volleyball games are either on the Pac-12 Networks or streamed live online in pretty good quality. We will again have open thread for all the volleyball matches this year.

Bears open the season by hosting the Cal Molten Classic from August 30-31 (one can easily go check them out prior to the football game on Saturday with the NM State game at 12:30). The participating teams are Nevada, New Mexico State (including former Bear Lauren Loerch who was instrumental in helping the Aggies to the WAC title last year), UC Santa Barbara, and of course Cal. It should be some interesting early test for the Bears, who are picked to finish 7th in the conference. Unlike last year where the preseason schedule was meant to really test the team that was hoping to be national title contender, this year's preseason schedule looks a lot more manageable. Of course, 5 Pac-12 teams are again ranked rather highly with Furd, USC, Washington, Oregon, and UCLA in the top 12. With the youth on this year's team, a good outing this year should have the Bears back to being national title contender before long.

Cal Men's Soccer:

The Cal Men's Soccer team is opening up their season next week by hosting the No.3 and No.2 ranked team in the country in Georgetown and Maryland. Both games would be televised on the Pac-12 Networks (the first Cal games to be on the network in all the sports).

DATE OPPONENT LOCATION TIME (PT) RESULTS MEDIA
Fri, Aug 30 Georgetown Berkeley, CA 2:00 p.m. Pac-12 Network Live Stats
Sun, Sep 01 Maryland Berkeley, CA 2:00 p.m. Pac-12 Network Live Stats

Bears finished 2012 with a 8-7-3 record and are picked to finish 4th in the conference (behind UCLA, Washington, and Furd) in the preseason poll. In addition to Georgetown and Maryland, the Bears will also play preseason ranked UCLA (twice), Washington (twice), and San Diego. While the gap between Cal and UCLA/Washington may be pretty big, Coach Kevin Grimes' squad could easily leapfrog Furd this year (and that would be a great consolation).

More detailed Cal Men's Soccer preview is forthcoming in the open threads for the first two matches.


Cal Field Hockey:

Also opening the season next weekend are the Cal Field Hockey team.

DATE OPPONENT LOCATION TIME (PT)

Fri, Aug 30 Michigan State Stanford, CA 7:00 p.m.
Sun, Sep 01 Connecticut Stanford, CA 12:00 p.m.

The UConn game would be televised on the Pac-12 networks. UConn were a NCAA tournament participant last year.

Bears have 5 games on TV this season, a program record, so fans can have plenty of opportunities to check out what field hockey is about, although the best way to support Coach Shellie Onstead's team is to cheer them on live at Maxwell Family Field.

Also, better preview of the team when the game notes are released next week before the game. Look for that in the UConn game open thread.

This concludes the first part of the Cal fall sports preview. Men's Water Polo is also a major part of the fall season for Cal and they will be previewed in a future Cal Olympics sports weekly roundup since their season does not start until September 8th.

GO BEARS!

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