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Golden Medals: Cal W. Gymnastics best Stanford; Soccer players drafted

Cal Winter Sports are ramping up this weekend with Men’s Gymnastics, Women’s Water Polo, and Rugby 15s starting their seasons.

Ifeoma Onumonu and Arielle Ship are the latest Golden Bears to turn pro after being drafted by the NWSL.
Cal Women’s Soccer Twitter

Cal Women’s Gymnastics

Cal Women’s Gymnastics started their 2017 season on Monday night with another great show to the home crowd. Golden Bears bested NorCal rivals Stanford, UC Davis, Sacramento State, and San Jose State to claim their 3rd straight NorCal Classics.

No.10 Bears won Vault, Beam, and Floor en route to a total of 195.325 points to defeat Sacramento State (194.475), UC Davis (193.875), No. 11 Stanford (193.250) and San Jose State (192.600).

Bears suffered a couple of falls on bars, but Rio 2016 Calympian Toni-Ann Williams had a brilliant routine, good for 9.85.

Freshman Cassidy Keelen had a great debut with a top 3 overall finish on beam and a solid vault to start.

Bears clinched the win with great performances on the floor. Williams had a 9.925 floor routine to give Cal the NorCal Classic title.

The Bears take their show to Iowa this weekend in a meet against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Sunday. Bears host UW on January 21st in their next Berkeley appearance.


Cal Soccer churning out more professionals

Cal Women’s Soccer saw two players drafted by the NSWL on Thursday.

5th year senior Ifeoma Onumonu was a surprise 1st round pick (8th overall) to the rebuilding Boston Breakers.

Senior and 2015 Pac-12 Player of the Year Arielle Ship heard her named called in the 3rd round (26th overall pick) when she was selected by Seattle Reign FC.

Cal Women’s Soccer got two players drafted in the 2017 NWSL draft after seeing Sam Witteman drafted 10th overall in the 2016 draft by Orlando Pride (although the official news from the Pride misspelled Berkeley - and that’s the team that had Alex Morgan as the face of the franchise). Expect that streak to continue in 2018.

On the men’s side, Cal Mens’ Soccer senior Christian Thierjung is expected to hear his name called in the MLS SuperDraft today (draft starts at noon PT). Thierjung had a solid Player Combine and is considered a top 5 midfielder in this draft. A mock draft has him being selected in the 2nd round.

Few weeks ago, Cal senior Nick Lima has signed with the local San Jose Earthquake club via the Homegrown Player contract.

Cal Men’s Soccer has been steadily producing MLS players (alum Stefan Frei was the starting goalie and Man of the Match for Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup - the MLS Championship Match). While no Bear was selected in 2016, Bears saw the following players drafted in the previous two years.

2015:

Conor Hallisey (1st round, 10th overall pick) to Sporting Kansas City

Stefano Bonomo (2nd round, 39th overall pick) to New York Red Bulls

Seth Casiple (4th round, 84th overall pick) to Portland Timbres

2014:

Steve Birnbaum (1st round, 2nd overall pick) to D.C. United

Christian Dean (1st round, 3rd overall pick) to Vancouver Whitecaps

Ryan Neil (1st round, 18th overall pick) to Real Salt Lake

Alec Sundly (2nd round, 31st overall pick) to New England Revolution

Cal Men’s Soccer head coach Kevin Grimes is one of the best in developing MLS talent in the college ranks.


Sports starting this weekend

Cal Men’s Gymnastics

Coming up on Sunday from Haas Pavilion in Berkeley at noon PT, it is the Big Flipoff (somehow this name has yet to catch on like the Big Spike/Splash/Freeze) between Cal and rival Stanford.

Cal Men’s Gymnastics is coming off a season that ended with a disappointing NCAA Qualifier when the 6th ranked Golden Bears failed to advance to the NCAA Championships as a team (since there are not that many Men’s Gymnastics squads, Bears are basically perennial entrants to the NCAA Championships).

Bears graduated two star contributors in Kevin Wolting and Kyle Zemeir but are adding three talented freshmen who shined at the Junior Olympics Nationals.

Cal Women’s Water Polo

Adding three Rio 2016 Calympians back to the mix (ICYMI, check out my guide from last week on seeing Calympians in action in Berkeley this winter), Cal Women’s Water Polo will kick off the new regime under new head coach Coralie Simmons this Sunday against San Jose State and Pacific from the campus of West Valley College in Saratoga, CA (the tournament is hosted by San Jose State but their Aquatic Center is under renovation).

Expect two easy Cal victories (even though both San Jose State and Pacific are ranked in the top 25) that likely won’t tell us much.

Cal Rugby

The Cal 15s season starts this weekend at the Dennis Storer Classic down at UCLA where the Bears will face off against the rest of the UC (San Diego, Davis, Santa Cruz, and host Los Angeles).

Expect plenty of the newcomers to get some game experience this weekend. Given the depth of the Cal squad, the Bears should have no problem sweeping through the weekend tournament, including against host UCLA.

The defending 15s national champions (in the Varsity Cup), your California Golden Bears, will have their home opener on next Saturday against Arizona.


Quick note on potential Cal sports on the chopping block

With all the talks about Cal Athletics being in debt, understandably the talks of Cal sports being cut are resurfacing. While we can pray that Justin Wilcox will be not only the savior of Cal Football but also that for the rest of the Cal Athletics department (including all 30 teams), we have heard murmurs that Men’s Soccer, Rugby, Baseball, Men’s Gymnastics, and Men’s Crew are currently in the crosshair (but it’s a moving target) of being targeted as potential cuts.

Those who follow Cal Olympic Sports know that Cal Rugby and Cal Men’s Crew are No.1 (31 national titles) and No.2 (17 national titles) most successful programs in Cal history, respectively. Both teams are also coming off national championships in 2016. Working against both sports are the large roster size (~70 people deep for both) and the fact that they are not governed by the NCAA - not being a part of the Director’s Cup or Capitol One Cup mean that only a few of our Pac-12 rivals have these programs. Fortunately for both sports, I fully expect the strong alumni and supporter base to successful fight the cut (or the more likely demotion to special club status). Due to Title IX issues and how there are significantly more male athletes to female athletes despite there being more female undergraduate students than male, both of these programs would probably need to be cut before Cal can consider cutting a women’s program.

Cal Baseball, with all the money invested into a much better, minor league baseball like (saves for the parking) experience, is again on the block. One would hope that the money invested into the infrastructures will have enough time to bear fruit and pay for itself. Despite the best effort of Stu Gordon and others, baseball still need to raise plenty more money to have the bulk of its cost to be covered by endowment.

Cal Gymnastics also survived the 2010 cut. This is a small program that will not save Cal that much money.

Cal Men’s Soccer is perhaps a surprise to be listed. While it is true that only 5 of the Pac-12 schools have a men’s team (Stanford, UCLA, UW, Oregon State, and Cal), men’s soccer is still a fairly popular sports in the NCAA. The Bears have been pretty solid in recent years coming off back to back Elite 8 run in 2012 and 2013 despite having fairly limited resources (compare to Stanford, who have won back to back NCAA titles in the meantime). With the rise of soccer popularity in the US, it is weird time to talk about eliminating soccer.

It should surprise no one that I am against the elimination of any of the Cal non-revenue sports. Working for all the teams may be how slowly the Cal bureaucracy works. While all the teams (men’s and women’s) have been “put on notice” that they need to be more self sufficient, I don’t expect any team to be cut until after a new Chancellor has been named (and probably a new AD after that). The more likely scenario that will also lessen the likelihood of any donor base to be alienated, Cal might just tighten the operating budget for the non-revenue sports even more. Ultimately (and rather sadly), the fate (and also how much resources to field competitive teams) of Cal non-revenue sports will be greatly tied to the Cal Football performances on the field in 2017 and 2018.

In the mean time, I will enjoy all of the diverse sports sponsored by Cal (and they are all played at a high level to be entertaining and aesthetically pleasing, even to novices). I encourage you all to do the same.

GO BEARS!