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Cal Olympic Sports: Fall Sports Season Recaps

How do you judge the success of the non-revenue sports? This is what I will remember of the Fall 2013 season.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the 2013 Cal Athletics fall season has come to an end, it is time to reflect on the success (or lack thereof) of the various teams. Compared to Cal Football, all the other fall sports fared pretty well.

Cal Men's Soccer

Team Record: 14-5-2

Conference Record: 6-3-1, 3rd in conference of 6 teams

Did we beat 'Furd? 1-0 in Berkeley, 1-2 at Stanfurd; so we win the "Bay Area Derby" via the away goal rule (although there are no official away goal rule to anoint a winner).

How far did we go? NCAA Quarter-finals (Elite Eight), 2-1 loss at home to Maryland

Improvement on last year? YES!

NCAA Champ: TBD (although it will not be a Pac-12 team despite UCLA, Washington, and Cal grabbing 3 of the top 4 seed)

Player of the Year: Steve Birnbaum - senior leader, leading goal scorer, the clear MVP on the team. The Bears were not the same team late in the regular season without him (which also cost the Bears the Pac-12 title).

Key player for 2014: Christian Dean - Is the big defender coming back or will he explore his MLS opportunity

What will I remember:

Although I have follow the Cal Men's Soccer a bit in the last few years, mainly due to their couple of trips to the Maryland area to play Maryland in the last 5 years, this is the year where I have paid the most attention, due to the most number of matches being on the Pac-12 Networks but also for the number of them involving top ranked teams. This is definitely the team (out of all the Cal sports) that I will remember the most from this fall. A unranked but veteran squad coming into the year, the Bears took two early home games against preseason favorites in Georgetown and Maryland and carried that momentum for much of the season. The first No.1 in the country ranking in program history and the second time that the Bears came so close again to the College Cup (I do recall watching a very low resolution stream of the 2010 team in PK against Akron). As much as I would have loved to have been at the College Cup writing about this team today had we beat Maryland last week, this season still gave us great moments like the Bonomo golden goal at UCLA:

The raising expectation and hope follow by some disappointment (this is Cal after all) is something that I shall remember for awhile from this fall.

Next Year:

I am really not sure what to think. The Bears will lose plenty of senior leadership in Birnbaum, Sundly, Neil, and Fuentes. They might also lose even more guys to the MLS, but the underclassmen this year did get quite a bit of valuable experiences. We would obviously hope that the team can build upon this year's success but plenty of players would need to step it up this offseason and get even better.

Cal Women's Soccer

Team Record: 11-5-5

Conference Record: 4-4-3, 5th in the conference of 12 teams

Did we beat 'Furd? Cal 1, 'Furd 0 in OT (Bears' first win over 'Furd in 7 years)

How far did we go? NCAA 1st round, 1-0 loss on the road to Santa Clara

Improvement on last year? Not really, Bears advanced to the second round in 2012 but lost to San Diego State, but did I mention that we beat 'Furd?


UCLA won their first women's soccer title in their storied history. I actually got the chance to talk to former UCLA and current USWNT star Lauren Cheney Holiday (she recently got married to former Bruin and current NBA star Jrue Holiday) before the season at a USWNT practice back in late August. North Carolina is basically Cal Rugby when it comes to women's soccer, winning all those years in the past with Mia Hamm but also as recently as 2012. With all the Pac-12 alum on the USWNT, we talked a little bit about the rise of West Coast soccer and how players are going to other schools looking to dethrone a North Carolina. UCLA was able to do that this year by beating Florida State; this is coming few seasons after that other Bay Area school (who the Bears did beat this year) also managed to win a NCAA title.

Player of the Year: Cal senior goalie Emily Kruger, who became Cal's all time leader in career saves this year

Key player for 2014: Ifeoma Onumonu - the current sophomore striker was on her way to a great season until a scoring drought hit the entire team. She still lead the Bears in goals (8) and total points (19) for the year but for awhile it looked like she was on pace to double both of those totals.

What will I remember:

Joining the early season success of their male counterparts, Cal Women's Soccer was undefeated through their first 12 matches (men had a similar streak but only for 10 matches). A big part of this was due to a heavy dose of home matches on the schedule early. The Bears hit a hard time late in the season and what was a solid and balanced attack could not score any goals. With a postseason berth in doubt and having to play on the road at 'Furd, the Bears came through with that dramatic 1-0 OT win over 'Furd.

Cal Volleyball

Team Record: 18-13

Conference Record: 10-10

Did we beat 'Furd? Nope but both Big Spikes were sort of close (Bears also look to have a ton more fun than their 'Furd counterparts). Furd won 20-25, 25-23, 25-22, 28-26 in Berkeley and then 25-16, 22-25, 25-17, 25-21 in Palo Alto.

How far did we go? NCAA 2nd round, losing in 3 sets to host Wisconsin

Improvement on last year? Yes. For the first time in 3 years, the Bears managed to escape the first round and beat North Carolina (who somehow has been Cal's first round opponent for 3 straight years).

NCAA Champ: TBD with a few Pac-12 teams (Washington, USC, and 'Furd all looking strong)

Player of the Year: Adrienne Gehan. The senior outside hitter and the lone remaining player from the Bears' national championship game run few years ago was the Bears' leading outside hitter until she got hurt late in the year (Gehan has had to battle injuries just about every season). Gehan joined the 1000 kill club for her Cal career.

Key player for 2014: Alyssa Jensen - the current freshman setter. Jensen didn't get much playing time this year backing up Joan Caloiaro but she came with good pedigree. Jensen went to China this past summer on a Pac-12 traveling all-star team, but it is looking like her early summer trip to Europe with the Cal Volleyball team that would be monumental in getting her up to speed in running the Cal offense fulltime.

What will I remember:

A bit of a schizophrenic season (pushing USC and Washington to 5 sets but also losing to UC Davis, Kansas State, and Wazzu), I hope this would be a year that I will remember as a stepping stone for the Bears to return to being national title contender. My expectation is that the Bears should be perennial top 25 teams that play into the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament every year. This year's team kind of showed that but suffered a bunch of late injuries to both lose the rankings and not get a particularly good seed. Still, Christina Higgins and Lara Vukasovic got a lot better this year and Michelle Neumayr finally got healthy. Freshman libero Maddy Kerr basically solved the 2012 team's main problem. Bears are also getting more top recruits next year. The recipe for success at a higher level are definitely there on paper for Cal Volleyball in 2014.

Cal Men's Water Polo

Team Record: 18-8

Conference Record: 4-4, 5th in MPSF

Did we beat 'Furd? No. Bears lost the Big Splash 11-10 (in addition to 2 additional contests) by blowing a first half lead.

How far did we go? No NCAA tournament berth despite the expansion of the tournament to include 2 at-large bids this eyar

Improvement on last year? Not really. Bears again missed out on the NCAA tournament this year.

NCAA Champ: USC for the 6th consecutive year

Player of the Year: Collin Smith, the senior forward and 2012 All-American who finished his Cal career with 140 goals.

Key player for 2014: Aleksa Saponjic, the junior Calympian (bronze medalist with Serbia) should be back to lead the Bears in a few statistical categories next year. Current sophomore Colin Mulcahy should also play a big role for the Bears.

What will I remember:

Bears are clearly the 5th best team this year. Bears lost every match (0-8) against the top 4 teams in Pacific (their best year ever), USC, UCLA, and 'Furd. On the other hand, the Bears are clearly much much better than every other team in the country. A recurring problem appeared to be the Bears tiring and losing the lead in the 3rd quarter. I don't know enough about the details but perhaps the Bears are suffering some depth issue from having 5 players kicked off the team last September.

Cal Field Hockey

Team Record: 7-12

Did we beat 'Furd? Bears lost 3-0 on the road and 1-0 in OT at home.

How far did we go? NorPac quarterfinal loss effectively ended the Bears' post season hope.

Improvement on last year? about the same

NCAA Champ: UConn (Cal and 'Furd are the only regular Pac-12 teams with Field Hockey, neither squad made the tournament)

Player of the Year: Lara Kruggel lead the team with 7 goals and she is only a junior

Key player for 2014: Kruggel should be back and so should fellow junior in goalkeeper Courtney Hendrickson.

What will I remember:

Although they had a few matches other than 'Furd on the Pac-12 Networks, I missed those (field hockey also play at somewhat odd times). I have tried to watch and appreciate field hockey but I just have not watched enough to really know what is going on.

Cal Men's Cross Country

Did we beat 'Furd? At the NCAA Regionals, 'Furd was 1st, Cal was 12th

NCAA Champ: Colorado (more titles for the "Conference of Champions")

Player of the Year: Senior J.P. Slater had the Bears' best time at the Regionals but that was only 41st overall.

What will I remember:

XC does not make a good spectator sports. I don't know much about the Cal team but would feel bad if I leave them out completely.

Cal Women's Cross Country

Did we beat 'Furd? At the NCAA Regionals, 'Furd was 2nd, Cal was 13th

NCAA Champ: Providence

Player of the Year: Kelsey Santisteban, the junior finished 10th in the country

What will I remember:

XC does not make a good spectator sports. I don't know much about the Cal team but would feel bad if I leave them out completely.