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Cal Volleyball vs. North Carolina Game Thread (NCAA First Round)

After rallying from a two sets to none deficit to defeat the Utah Utes at home last Monday, the Bears (15-15) did clinch NCAA tournament eligibility. Despite a little bit of concern prior to the NCAA Volleyball Selection Show, the Bears do find themselves in the NCAA tournament, for the school record 11th consecutive times. With a tough but feasible task of winning in the first two round and returning to Haas Pavilion for the Berkeley Regional, the Bears embark on the road to the Berkeley Regional today with a match against the North Carolina Tarheels (25-5). GO BEARS!

Thursday, Nov. 29
NCAA Tournament - First Round
3 p.m. PT- Cal (15-15) vs. North Carolina (25-5)
Hilton Coliseum - Ames, Iowa
Coverage: Live Video, Live Audio, Live Stats, Twitter(@CalVolleyball)
All-Time Series vs. the Tar Heels: 2-1 (1-1 in NCAA Tournament)
Last Meeting: L, 3-2 (12-1-11; first round of 2011 NCAA Tournament)

North Carolina is actually somewhat of a familiar opponent for the Bears since the two squads did meet in the first round last year (at Pepperdine) as well. Despite having been ranked number one for weeks at the beginning of last year, the Bears fell to the Tar Heels in 5 sets last year to make the quickest exit from the NCAA tournament in recent history. This season, however, the roles have most definitely reversed. The Bears (39th in RPI despite just a .500 record) are the underdogs this year against North Carolina (14th in RPI, 24th in the Coaches' Poll). The UNC squad is also familiar for having former Cal player, Tia Gaffen, who transferred 3 years ago.

Probable Starters
No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr. Hometown
12 Joan Caloiaro S 5-11 Jr. Saratoga, Calif.
3 Nikki Gombar OH 6-0 Fr. Rome, Italy
5 Adrienne Gehan OH 6-3 Jr. Dallas, Texas
8 Correy Johnson OPP 6-4 Sr. Winter Park, Fla.
7 Shannon Hawari MH 6-2 Sr. Plano, Texas
11 Kat Brown MH 6-3 Sr. Aptos, Calif.
13 Mary McKennon L 5-9 Fr. Newport Beach, Calif.

Pac-12 Honors:

Congratulations to senior Shannon Hawari, Cal's all time hitting percentage leader for being named to the All Pac-12 Team. Fellow senior Correy Johnson is an honorable mention for the second straight year, after being named to the team in 2010.

Record Breaker?

Senior Kat Brown was able to tie Ellen Orchard for the most blocks in Cal history. With just one more block, she can have the record all to herself.

In their own words:

Nice thing about the NCAA tournament is the amount of volleyball press and information that is available. Here are the Cal interviews for your viewing pleasure.

Cal's Pre-Tournament Press Conference: (Coach Rich Feller with seniors Shannon Hawari and Kat Brown)

Coach Feller and Shannon Hawari on This Week in Cal Athletics:

Playing in the extremely tough Pac-12 conference, the Bears have had their share of big upset wins. While there are still some obvious weakness to this year's squad, due to injuries, the Tar Heels and the Cyclones are probably lamenting being placed in the same first two round as Cal.

Should the Bears be able to get past the Tar Heels, they would next play the winner between IPFW (25-6) and No. 15 Iowa State (20-7).