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Cal Olympic sports preview: Women's soccer debuts top 5 class, Al Acosta new women's crew coach

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LeBron James isn't the only person going back home this summer. New Cal Women's Crew head coach Al Acosta, a Berkeley native and former Golden Bears, is heading home to Cal after a very successful track record of building up the lightweight program over at Leland Stanford Junior University. I will also preview Cal Women's Soccer, who starts play this afternoon.

After previewing Cal Volleyball and Cal Men's Soccer last week, I had originally planned to preview the rest of the Fall team sports today, however with Interim AD Mike Williams making his 2nd move of his tenure, I will hold back on the Men's Water Polo and Field Hockey previews until next week.

New Cal Women's Crew Head Coach is named and he is Al Acosta

Interim AD Mike Williams has made his 2nd move! After a somewhat surprising departure of Dave O'Neill to Texas after 16 years leading the Golden Bears, not to mention the two national title in 2005 and 2006, the Golden Bears have found his replacement in hiring Berkeley native and Cal alum in Al Acosta.

Acosta has had a brilliant run as the director and head coach for Stanfurd women's lightweight crew for the last 13 years. He started that program in 2001 and build it to be 4-time IRA champions.

The best part from the press release is easily the following quote from Al Acosta though:

[Being the Cal Women's Crew head coach] is the only job that I’ve ever considered leaving Stanford for and I hope it is the last job I’ll ever have.

Welcome home, coach Acosta!

The first hire made by Interim AD Mike Williams is of course Cal Field Hockey head coach Brooke Eubanks. Learn more about her in this new video released last week.


Cal Women's Soccer

After starting the year with a long unbeaten streak (with a few too many draws to my liking), the Golden Bears faded badly in the middle of the season (when the previously very well balanced attack is suddenly not getting any goals). It took two dramatic wins late in the year (including one over Furd) to secure a NCAA berth for the Bears.

To make my life easier, CalBears.com now has a nice preview of the team with the season starting this afternoon (at 5 pm vs. USF Dons with the game on Pac-12 Bay Area/Los Angeles).

2013 Season:

11-5-5, 4-4-3 in the Pac-12 - lost in the NCAA 1st round (and rematch) to Santa Clara 2-1

Departing players:

A talented quartet of starters have graduated in Rachel Mercik, Emi Lawson, Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick and Emily Kruger. Of the 4, the biggest void is left in front of the goal in the departure of Emily Kruger.

Impact newcomers:

With a top 5 recruiting class, the Golden Bears have reloaded to achieve even greater success.

With four players ranked on TopDrawerSoccer.com’s national Top 50 list, head coach Neil McGuire’s 2014 signing class has been touted as one of the country’s top 5 recruiting classes. Among the standouts are Emily Boyd (No. 5 goalie in the class of 2014), Annia Mejia (Mexican U-20 National Team) and Indigo Gibson (No. 12 overall in 2014)

Indigo Gibson was named to TopDrawerSoccer's preseason Best XI Freshmen Team.

Most important newcomer may be whoever is playing keeper for the Bears this season.

2014 preseason ranking:

No. 23 in the country. Golden Bears are picked to finish 3rd in the Pac-12 behind UCLA and Stanfurd.

Chance to win the NCAA title:

It's a big unknown given the youth on the team. I would say the Bears are not quite ready to be title contender for another season, but they could certainly overachieve this year.

Chance to win the Pac:

UCLA is the defending NCAA Champions. 'Furd also won it all not too long ago. So winning the Pac is almost as hard as winning the NCAA.

Chance to beat Stanfurd and when:

Golden Bears host Stanfurd on November 6th as the regular season finale. Cal dramatically defeated Furd for the 1st time in a long long time last year. I like our chance to make it 2 in a row. ROLL ON YOU BEARS!

Key player:

Junior Ifeoma Onumonu has the talent to be really special. She started last year brilliantly but kind of disappeared later on. Her ability to take over the game when nothing else is working offensively would be huge for the Golden Bears in 2014.

Not so bold prediction:

The Golden Bears should be back in the NCAA tournament this year. After possibly a early miscues here or there, the Bears should be solid to close out the year in a reversal of last year's fortune.

Bold Prediction:

With the success of Alex Morgan as the face of USWNT and another Women's World Cup next year, I expect the program to continue to reap the benefits for years to come. I believe the Bears will continue to get top 5 recruiting classes in the next few years, culminating in the program's 1st NCAA Championship sometimes in the next 4 years.

GO BEARS!