With the semester winding down, the postseason plans for several Cal Athletics programs were announced this past week. Additionally, I attempt to preview the monumental clash of the titans in the Varsity Cup Championship game that is Cal vs. BYU in Rugby.
Cal Rugby (18-2)
Varsity Cup National Championships Final: Cal (18-2) vs. BYU (17-1), Sat. May 3rd at 1 PM PT NBC Sports Network
It's National Championship time for Cal Rugby as the Golden Bears take on the BYU Cougars in the Varsity Cup Final on Saturday. This is a rematch of the last year's inaugural Varsity Cup final when BYU won with basically a "buzzer beater" by converting a surprise drop kick in the extra time at the end of regulation.
Coach Jack Clark is preparing the Bears by getting them to stay hungry and embrace the under-dog role. From the CalBears.com,
"Our path to victory is narrow," said coach Clark. "Against BYU, our victory conditions require a high degree of precision. A degree of accuracy with which our opposition isn’t burdened. In fact, BYU is so lethal, they can turn over a significant percentage of their possessions and still blow teams out."
Coach Clark gave similar sentiment in the post game on-field interview last week, calling BYU "the best team in the country" after the Bears defeated CWU 58-14 and BYU have steamrolled Navy 60-0. You can relive Cal's 58-14 win over CWU either through our own Twist's photos or watch the full broadcast below on Youtube:
Given the older player and an injury bitten Cal squad, BYU will have distinct advantage in experience in the tight five, where the Bears will have 3 underclassmen.
Both squads have a star who is also splitting time this season with the US National Team. For the Golden Bear, 5th year senior Seamus Kelly (a captain for an unprecedented 3rd time), a 5'10" 201 pound center is the All-American that will lead the way. For BYU, they are led by their captain, Kyle Sumsion, a 6'2" 240 pound flanker, who is also a member of the US National Team.
On the rest of the players to watch out for:
Jake Anderson will anchor the deep three once again at No. 15, with Andrew Battaglia back after returning from injury at one wing opposite sophomore Harry Adolphus as the Bears shore up the loss to injury of All-American Josh Tucker. Also lost for this championship in the centers is 2013 championship starter Jared Braun and his replacement in that match, Jesse Milne, whose ball-carrying set up Kelly’s tying try before Linehan’s drop goal snuffed Cal’s 2013 title hopes. Sophomore Russell Webb is the likely pick to go opposite Linehan in the No. 10 jersey on Saturday.
At scrumhalf, the Bears are hopeful to see a return from injury by Nicklas Boyer, who hasn’t played at all this postseason after playing all 80 minutes in the 2013 final, as well as Paul Bosco, who was unavailable in last year’s final after his season-ending injury. In the forwards, the back row looks to be a repeat combination of the 2013 final with Jack O’Beirne, All-American Alec Gletzer and Tiaan De Nysschen, while the front row looks to include Tanner Mohr at hooker, where he will bind with props Scott Walsh, a junior, and Vrame. Cal will miss the mobility of injured starter Michael Bush.
Brigham Young is led by captain Kyle Sumsion, a 6-2, 240-pound All-America flanker who has earned two international appearances with the U.S. National Team. Also returning from the 2013 final is South African scrumhalf Luke Mocke, who can be spelled at No. 9 by Joseph Nicholls from Zimbabwe. Linehan is also back in the No. 10 jersey for BYU having scored 22 points against the Bears in the 2013 title match, and the flyhalf from Auckland, New Zealand, will once again have a fellow Kiwi in his backline in the form of 6-0, 227-pound Paul Lasike, who also sits atop the BYU football depth chart for fullbacks this spring coming off a fall campaign that included 87 rushing yards and a touchdown in BYU’s win over Texas. The centers have also been filled well by Lelann Latu, while the Whippy brothers from Fiji, Josh and Jared, are additional threats from fullback and the midfield in continuance of the lineup’s Southern Hemisphere contributors.
The game is taking place in Rio Tinto stadium in Salt Lake City, a mere 40 miles away from Provo, Utah (the home of BYU where the Varsity Cup final took place last year) as the Varsity Cup took a baby step toward having a "neutral site".
Despite this being one of two Collegiate Rugby Championships*, it is hard to argue that Cal and BYU are the top two teams (Saint May's actually can claim victories this season over both, but they are got beat by BYU in another match). This should be a great match for rugby fans and general sports fan alike tomorrow.
Although Coach Clark is calling BYU the best team, I think this will be a fairly evenly matched game. Expect Bears to bring their best after embracing an underdog role, the game may very well come down to the last play again, but hopefully with a different result than last year.
The Cal-BYU rivalry is clearly the best one in college rugby. Tomorrow will be another chapter is this already storied series.
Cal-BYU All-Time Series
Year Score Winner Location National Champion
1981 12-11 Cal Santa Barbara, CA (P) Cal
1983 44-6 Cal Provo, UT (P) Cal
1984 15-10 Cal Long Beach, CA (P) Harvard
2001 33-22 Cal Berkeley, CA (R) Cal
2006 29-26 Cal Stanford, CA (NCC) Cal
2007 37-7 Cal Stanford, CA (NCC) Cal
2008 59-7 Cal Stanford, CA (NCC) Cal
2009 25-22 BYU Stanford, CA (NCC) BYU
2010 19-7 Cal Stanford, CA (NCC) Cal
2011 21-14 Cal Sandy, UT (NCC) Cal
2013 27-24 BYU Provo, UT (VCC) BYU
(P) Pacific Coast Championships
(R) Regular Season
(NCC) National Collegiate Championship
(VCC) Varsity Cup Championship
*This is one of the two National Championships in rugby awarded given a split in collegiate rugby.
Cal Women's Water Polo (19-8)
NCAA Tournaments Dates: May 9th-11th
Thanks to the expansion of the NCAA Women's Water Polo bracket to 10 teams with the introduction of two play-in games to the past 8 team schedule, the now 3rd ranked Cal Women's Water Polo earned the 4th seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Under the old system (just last year), the Bears would have been the first team left out, as only 3 teams from the top conference (MPSF which includes the Golden Bears) could make the tournament. Under this new system, not only the Bears but also the 5th ranked Arizona State made the NCAA tournament.
Bears will face Arizona State in their first game of the tournament. This will actually be a rematch of the Bears' last game, in the MPSF 3rd place game on Sunday. In sudden death OT, the Bears were able to triumph 8-7 over the Sun Devils on a game winning goal from freshman Dora Antal.
Doral Antal, with 6 goals in the MPSF tournament, has earned a spot on the MPSF-All Tournament team. She is also the conference's leading scorer with 71 total (2.96 goals per game) that is good for 4th most in Cal history (2nd most by a freshman) and has earned the MPSF Newcomer of the Year award.
The key matchup last weekend for the Bears turned out to be their opening game in the MPSF tournament. The Bears needed a win to ensure of a spot in the NCAA and faced then No.5 team in the country, San Jose State. It took OT (two extra 3 minutes period) but the Bears were able to win 8-7 to basically clinch a NCAA spot. Against the top ranked Stanfurd in the semifinal, the Bears was again routed (for the second consecutive weekend, by the way). The Golden Bears will likely face a similar challenge again next weekend, should they be able to beat ASU again (Bears lost 6-5 to them in the regular season before beating them in the MPSF tournament). Top overall seed Stanfurd will likely awaits the Bears in the NCAA semifinals.
This NCAA berth is only the 3rd ever for Cal Women's Water Polo (still a long way to go to match the other members of the Cal Aquatics Family), and the first since 2011 (no asterisk needed despite the change in format).
One final thing, the Golden Bears added a Canadian National Team member in Emma Wright. She joins an already strong recruiting class to a very young Golden Bears squad that features 4 key freshmen, including the top scorer and the goalie.
Congrats and good luck to the Golden Bears next weekend.
Cal Women's Tennis (18-4, 10-0 in Pac-12)
NCAA Tournament Dates: 1st two rounds are next weekend (May 9th-10th) in Berkeley, then it would be off to Athens, Georgia from May 15th to May 26th
The Golden Bears played in the Pac-12 Championships last week down in Ojai, CA but as individuals (or doubles pair) rather than as a team. After clinching a Pac-12 title for the first time in program history thanks to a perfect 10-0 record that culminated in an upset win 6-1 win at Stanfurd, the Bears earned the automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.
You can check out the NCAA bracket here.
Bears earned the 6th overall seed in the 64 school tournament. They will host the 1st and 2nd round which includes Fairleigh Dickinson (Cal's opening round opponent) and barring no catastrophic upset, the winner of Pepperdine and LSU.
Should the Bears make it out of the first two rounds again, their likely foe down in Athens would be those pesky Stanfurd Cardinal who are the 11th seed. QF top seed is No.3 Virginia, SF top seed is No.2 Alabama (or No.7 North Carolina). The top overall seed for the tournament are the hosts Georgia.
After the team competition, several Bears will be in position to play for the singles championship. Four Golden Bears are in the 64 player main draw (a testament to the depth of the Bears' team and a big reason for their success this year) with a 5th as the 3rd alternate.
Senior Anett Schutting, junior Zsofi Susanyi, sophomore Lynn Chi and freshman Denise Starr all earned at-large invitations to the 64-player tournament.
All matches shall be the best-of-three sets. Regular scoring and a 12-point tiebreaker at six- games-all will be used for all matches.
Freshman Maegan Manasse is an alternate. For the doubles, Schutting/Chi are an alternate to the 32 pair draw.
The Golden Bears have not win the NCAA Team Championship (but have made it to the finals). For singles, Susie Babos won it in 2006 and Jana Juricova won it in 2011. Bears also boast 5 NCAA doubles championships in its history.
|1997-98||Amanda Augustus/Amy Jensen||Women's Tennis|
|1998-99||Amanda Augustus/Amy Jensen||Women's Tennis|
|1999-00||Claire Curran/Amy Jensen||Women's Tennis|
|2002-03||Raquel Kops-Jones/Christina Fusano||Women's Tennis|
|2008-09||Mari Andersson/Jana Juricova||Women's Tennis|
This year's team is better equipped to win the team championship than the singles, however, given the team depth (particularly at No.4, 5, 6 singles) is the main strength.
In the individual Pac-12 Championships, two Bears (Schutting and Chi) made it to the semifinal rounds before falling. Fabikova (Bears' No.5 singles player) made it to the invitational draw final before losing.
Tennis fans should head out to Berkeley next Friday/Saturday to cheer on the team in the NCAA tournament.
Cal Men's Tennis (15-7, 4-3)
NCAA Tournament: First and second rounds May 10th and 11th
The NCAA tournament path for Men's Tennis has also been announced last week. Given a lower ranking, the path for the Cal men is much much tougher than that of the women.
Bears earned a trip to College Station, Texas to play in the first two round that is hosted by 8th seed Texas A&M (who plays Alcorn State in the 1st round). In the opening round, the Bears drew the Red Raiders of Texas Tech (pun intended). In the latest ranking, the Bears are ranked 17th in the country. Texas Tech is outside the top 25 while Texas A&M are ranked 10th.
"We’re excited about traveling to Texas A&M for the first two rounds of the NCAAs," Cal head coach Peter Wright said. "We know Texas Tech is a tough team, and Texas A&M has a very good record at home, but his is the postseason so anything can happen. We’re playing well and definitely looking forward to the challenge."
Bears have made it to the round of 16 each of the past two years. In its history, Cal claim 3 National Titles in Men's Tennis from 1925, 1980, and 1989 (one NCAA, two Intercollegiate Tennis Association).
Senior Ben McLachlan, who plays No.1 singles for the team, received the following spiffy-looking Bear trophy (look at those Bears teeth!) at the team banquet.
McLachlan has also earned a berth the NCAA Singles championship, taking place in Athens, Georgia after the conclusion of the team championship. Melton/Bayane, a pair of Cal juniors, are in the NCAA Doubles draw.
Having played in the toughest conference of the country (both USC and UCLA are ranked in the top 5...although UCLA only earned a No.6 seed), the Bears have plenty of experience facing top tennis opponents. It would not be the biggest surprise in the world, if the Bears can survive the College Station regional.
Cal Women's Golf
NCAA Regional: May 8th-10th at Karsteen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma
Also heading down to the South with the Cal Men's Tennis is Cal Women's Golf. After finishing 7th as a team in the Pac-12 Championships last weekend, the Bears are heading to Oklahoma to try to earn a berth in the NCAA Championships for Women's Golf.
Carly Childs finished tied for 13th in the Pac-12 Championships (won by 'Furd) with a score of 220. From CalBears.com,
Childs finished tied for 13th overall with a 73-73-74=220 (+4) to become the first Golden Bear sophomore to earn a top 20 finish at the conference tournament since Joanne Lee took eighth in 2010 with an identical 220 (67-77-76). Childs, along with Suh who hit six birdies Sunday en route to a 3-under 69 – tied for the best score of the day – helped push California up one spot into a seventh-place finish.
Bears are in the Central Regional as the 12th best team. Here is the full list of participants (from NCAA)
Here is the format (from CalBears.com):
FORMAT: Three-day, 54-hole tournament with 18 holes each day. The top-four individuals from each five-member team with the lowest scores for each 18-hole round constitute the scoring members for that given round. The top eight finishing teams and the two highest finishing individuals not on one of those eight teams will advance to play in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship Finals at the Tulsa Country Club (Tulsa, Okla.) from May 20-23.
This is the 15th consecutive NCAA Regionals bids for Cal Women's Golf. Bears have advanced beyond the NCAA Regionals 7 times, last in 2011. Bears last won a NCAA Regionals in 2003 (also the central).
HOLE ON YOU BEARS!