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Cal Olympic Sports Roundup: Time to start focusing on the post-season

With the end of the season approaching (if not already here) for many of Cal's fall sports, it is time to look at the postseason outlook for each team, including the Cal Women's Soccer' road to the championship announced earlier today.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Just like how Cal Football only has two more weeks before the season comes to a merciful end, many of the other Cal sports are also approaching the end (and for Cal Field Hockey, the end came this past weekend). So for this week's Cal Olympic Sports Roundup, we will focus our attention on the postseason possibilities for the various fall sports that are still active. We shall start with the Cal Women's Soccer since their draw was just announced earlier today.

Cal Women's Soccer

Regular Season Final Record: 11-4-5, 4-4-3 in the Pac-12 for 5th place

Post-season Format: 64 team

Post-season Matchup: Bears will start their post season at No.8 (and 4th seed of the region) Santa Clara (14-4-1) this Saturday, Nov. 16th, at 1 PM PT (NCAA like to minimize travel for teams, particularly in the early rounds) in a rematch of a September game that ended in a 1-1 draw, behind a career-best 12 saves from Cal senior keeper Emily Kruger. This match would likely be streamed online by Santa Clara.

Final W. Soccer pac-12 STANDINGS

Teams Pts Conf Overall
UCLA 29 9-0-2 17-1-2
WASHINGTON STATE 22 7-3-1 14-3-3
UTAH 20 6-3-2 10-4-6
STANFORD 18 6-5-0 13-5-1
CALIFORNIA 15 4-4-3 11-4-5
COLORADO 14 4-5-2 12-6-2
ARIZONA STATE 14 4-5-2 9-8-2
WASHINGTON 13 3-4-4 7-9-4
ARIZONA 13 4-6-1 9-7-4
OREGON STATE 13 4-6-1 6-12-2
USC 10 3-7-1 8-10-2
OREGON 7 2-8-1 4-12-3

The Bears are one of 6 Pac-12 squads (along with UCLA, Wazzu, Utah, Furd, and Colorado) to make the tournament in what may be considered an overall slight toward the conference based on the seedings. No.2 UCLA only got a 2nd seed in a region (top 4 teams in each region are seeded) despite being ranked 2nd in the country in the coaches' poll. The ACC ended up with all 4 number 1 seeds with Virginia, Virginia Tech (who gave Virginia their first loss in the ACC tournament), Florida State, and the defending champs North Carolina.

The Bears are in the Virginia Tech regional. Should the Bears survive the Santa Clara Broncos, they would next face the winner of Boston University and Harvard. A match with the top seed Virginia Tech would be in the 3rd round. The 2nd and 3rd seeds of the regionals are Florida and Central Florida.

For the full bracket, click here.

Given the number draws that the Bears have had this year, their post season fate may be determined by how well they can do in the penalty kicks.

Cal Men's Soccer

Regular Season Record: 12-3-2, 6-2-1 in Pac-12 for 2nd place with 1 match left (at Stanfurd on Wednesday night on Pac-12 Networks)

Post-season Format: 48 team

Post-season Outlook: LOCK for a tournament berth and seed

M.Soccer Pac-12 STANDINGS

Teams Pts Conf Overall
WASHINGTON 20 6-1-2 13-1-4
CALIFORNIA 19 6-2-1 12-3-2
UCLA 18 5-1-3 10-3-4
STANFORD 8 2-5-2 8-6-3
SAN DIEGO STATE 8 2-5-2 5-10-3
OREGON STATE 2 0-7-2 7-9-2

Coming off a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in OT to Washington that likely have just cost the Bears the conference title, the Bears have one more regular season match before the postseason. Bears will play Furd in the away leg of the "Bay Area Derby" to wrap up the season. Should they beat Furd and get some help from Oregon State (just a draw with Washington would be very, very nice), the Bears can still win the Pac-12.

Ranked No.1 for the bulk of the season, the Bears were ranked 4th last week before losing on the road in OT to No.3 Washington. More importantly, Cal's leader both on and off the field and a front-runner for conference player of the year, Steve Birnbaum, was injured in the Friday win over Oregon State (after scoring his team high 9th goal of the season). Birnbaum was not available for the Washington match and his status is not really public knowledge.

For the sadistic amongst us who wants to see the golden goal by UW:

The Men's Soccer selection show is next Monday (November 18th) at 9 AM PT. Given the fewer Men's Soccer teams than the Women's, the tournament is not a 64 team tournament, instead the tournament only takes 48 teams with the seeded teams (which Cal would very likely to be one, given a really high RPI of No.3 before last week) not partaking in the first round. Given the injury to Birnbaum, the Bears would probably be happy to have an extra half a week of rest.

Rounds 2, 3, and quarterfinals will be one week apart. Should the Bears be so lucky to still be playing after that, this year's College Cup (final four) will take place in Philadelphia, PA (and I certainly don't mind another excuse to go up to Philly).

Highlights from Cal' 3-0 win with an interview with Cal forward Omid Jalali who scored two goals:

Cal Volleyball

Season record so far: 16-7, 9-5 in the Pac-12 (4th place) with 3 more weeks (6 matches) left.

NCAA Format: 64 team

Post-season Outlook: VERY GOOD. The now 20th ranked Bears appear to be in very good position for yet another post season berth (64 team tournament). Typically, the top 16 seed (with some exceptions due to facility issues) host the first two rounds of the tournament. The Bears still have work to do (an upset win over a Washington and/or Stanfurd would greatly help) before they can be sure that they can stay in Berkeley for the first weekend of the volleyball postseason.

Volleyball pac-12 STANDINGS

Teams Conf Overall
WASHINGTON 13-1 21-1
USC 12-2 22-3
STANFORD 11-3 18-5
ARIZONA 7-7 17-9
COLORADO 7-7 15-9
OREGON 7-7 14-10
UTAH 6-8 17-9
UCLA 4-10 13-11
OREGON STATE 0-14 9-16

Cal Volleyball was the team of the week amongst the Cal fall sports for being the first Pac-12 squad this year to accomplish a road sweep of the mountain schools (Utah and Colorado). This feat was also matched by Stanfurd one day later. What was particularly unique about the wins were the number of close sets won by the Bears. Against Utah, the Bears saved 14 set points, showing great mental toughness, to sweep the Utes. Although the Bears lost the first set at Colorado, they won the next three sets, all by very small margin as well. Couple this with the win over UCLA the week before where the Bears also won all of the close sets, the Bears appear to have the intangibles (or mojo) that is needed to make a post season run.

For the Bears success, the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week was award to junior Christina Higgins. Here is her interview after the Utah win:

The Bears have three more weeks of matches, including a trip to the Oregon schools (who the Bears swept at home), a home matches with the Washington schools (Washington is a top 5 team in the country), and road trips to Arizona State (first and only meeting this year) and Furd to close out the season. A 3-3 finish would likely be good enough to keep the Bears in the top 25, although it is a top 16 seed that is more important.

Cal Men's Water Polo

Regular Season record: 14-6, 3-3 in conference play (that doesn't really matter)

NCAA format: 4 team

Post-season Outlook: Depends solely on the MPSF result (pretty much like every other year). With only 4 teams making the NCAA tournament and one at large bid, the MPSF (which pretty much has the top 8 to 10 team every year) can only send two teams to the tournament (and basically the championship match). Ranked 5th for the bulk of the season, Cal Water Polo would need to WIN the MPSF to make the NCAA tournament. The problem so far this season, unfortunately, is Cal's 0-6 record against the top 5 teams in the country.

On Saturday, just before the disaster that happened in Memorial, the Men's Water Polo Bears tried to reverse their own recent poor streaks against a no-longer-invincible USC squad. Despite jumping out to a lead thanks to scoring on all 4 of their first 4 possessions, the Bears eventually fell short to lose 11-9. Bears actually got quite a balanced scoring, but their two main offensive stars Collin Smith and Aleksa Saponjic were both held scoreless.

Cal Men's Water Polo fans should note that all three of the remaining matches will be on the Pac-12 Networks. They are the Thursday and Sunday home matches with Santa Clara and UC Irvine. Just like the USC match this past week, the Bears and Furd will play in the Big Splash before the Big Game at Stanfurd (game time is TBD since the Big Game time is also not announced yet).

Cal Field Hockey

Final Season Record: 7-12

Finally, the Cal Field Hockey season came to an end last weekend when they were defeated in the NorPac first round to Liberty. Liberty eventually won the conference title and kept Stanfurd away from the NCAA tournament, so there is always that.

Bears did score a few conference honors, however. California juniors Courtney Hendrickson (Cal goalie) and Lara Kruggel have been named the NorPac West Defensive and Offensive Players of the Year. Congrats to Courtney and Lara. It is great that both of them should be back for the Bears next season. Additionally, 6 players received all conference honors: Hendrickson, Kruggel, Jordan O'Reilly, Allie Swartz, Shannon Elmitt and Clara Goni.

All-Conference selections were Hendrickson, Kruggel, Jordan O’Reilly, Allie Swartz, Shannon Elmitt and Clara Goni.