As the Fall Olympic Sports season ended two weeks ago when Cal Men’s Water Polo was edged by USC in the NCAA semifinals (I guess I never completed my story of how the Bears really got burned by the officiating and really missed Johnny Hooper - who picked up two mutual exclusions and a third of regular variety to be DQ’ed - at the end of the match), it is time to look at all the Cal fall sports as a whole and award these virtual “Golden Medals” to our student-athletes.
Top Male Athletes
Gold: Luca Cupido (Men’s Water Polo)
The ACWPC National Player of the Year (he was also the MPSF Conference Player of the Year) was the clear best player in collegiate water polo this year. Cupido does everything in the pool but has finally score for the Cal team in his senior year like he does for the USA national team. One of the all-time Golden Bears great, Cal will miss Cupido’s leadership on and off the pool next year.
Cupido has a team leading 58 goals in 2017, but also collects a ton of field blocks, steals, exclusions drawn.
Silver: Jose Carrera-Garcia (Men’s Soccer)
The 5th year senior led the Cal Men’s Soccer team back to the NCAA tournament.
JCG has a team high 9 assists to go with 4 goals. He was also the unquestioned leader and heart of the Cal Men’s Soccer squad this past year.
Great Write Up From @hor_hay10 On Cal Captain @10jcg_ And How DACA Helped Him Acheive Both His Academic & Athletic Goals. In Light Of Local Lizandro Claros Being Deported Its Good To See Some Positive Cases Still Out Therehttps://t.co/f6wU8d8dq9— DMV Soccer (@DMVsoccer96) November 26, 2017
Bronze: Garrett Corcoran and Trent Brendel (Men’s Cross Country)
The two senior runners qualified for the NCAA championships as individuals. They placed 140th and 165th in the country.
Top Female Athletes
Gold: Emily Boyd (Women’s Soccer)
The Cal senior made history as the first Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year. She added to her Cal career shutout record by recording 10 clean sheets in 2017 (she also owns the single season record of 11, set in 2015 AND 2016).
Silver: Indigo Gibson (Women’s Soccer)
Being a great defensive player often means that a player flies under the radar, nonetheless Indigo Gibson earned the Mac Hermann Semifinalist (best 15 player for the soccer version of the Heisman) honor in her senior year. Unfortunately, Gibson ended her year by picking up a (controversial according to some of the report that I’ve read) red card 5 minutes into Cal’s NCAA 1st round match - something that the team could not overcome as they were eliminated 2-1 by Santa Clara.
Bronze: Bethan Knights (Cross Country)
The Cal senior again was the top runner for the Golden Bears. She finished 23rd in the country.
Gold: Megan Rodgers (Field Hockey)
The Cal freshman led the conference in goals with 17 (to go with 3 assists). Bears have a go-to scorer in Rodgers which makes the team that much more dangerous for ranked opponents to face.
Gold: Brie Oakley (Cross Country)
The top recruit in the country did not disappoint in her freshman year. Brie Oakley was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and was the 2nd best freshman (38th overall) at the NCAA Championships. She should get even better with experiences.
That’s the 2nd fastest freshman in the country, and she’s a ! pic.twitter.com/HVoWRfMZMk— Cal XC/Track & Field (@CalTFXC) November 20, 2017
Bronze: Emily Smith (Women’s Soccer)
All Regional 3rd Team honor, amongst a list of other things, for the Cal freshman defender. Along with Indigo Gibson and Emily Boyd, Smith is responsible for the great Cal defense in 2017.
Congrats to these Bears on their @TopDrawerSoccer postseason honors!— Cal Women's Soccer (@CalWSoc) December 12, 2017
⚽️ Indigo Gibson - First Team Best XI
⚽️ Emily Boyd - Second Team Best XI
⚽️ Emily Smith - First Team Freshman Best XI
⚽️ Luca Deza - Second Team Freshman Best XI
>> https://t.co/mROaBBN0VH pic.twitter.com/VItEVQ4JoB
Honorable Mention: Mima Mirkovic (Volleyball)
A freshman starter for the Bears all year long, Mirkovic is 2nd on the team with 264 kills to go with a team best 342 digs. She would have ranked higher had the team performed better as a whole.
Most Improved Players
Gold: Antzela Dempi (Volleyball)
Team high 319 kills from Dempi in her senior campaign to lead the team. She was just a part time player prior to this year. She also did great things off the field.
Silver: Kevin Le Vine (Men’s Water Polo)
Le Vine was another Cal senior who really seized the opportunity to start in his senior season. He played at a championship level for the Bears year round.
Bronze: Shinya Kadono (Men’s Soccer)
1 goals in 2015, 0 goals in 2016, team leading 7 goals in 2017.
Gold: Field Hockey (9-8), 4-2 win over Stanford on 10/15/17
Bears beat rival Stanford for the first time in awhile en route to securing a tie in the conference division (America East Western division to be precise). Sure, the Bears did get upset in the first game of the conference tournament (an unfortunate common occurrence this fall for Cal sports), but with the emerging star Meghan Rodgers having three more years of eligibility and playmakers back next year, Cal can challenge Stanford (and Pacific to a lesser extend) as the best field hockey program in the West coast in 2018.
Silver: Men’s Water Polo (20-4), NCAA semifinalists
They were the only legit challenger for a national title for Cal this fall. However, the Bears did lose the Big Splash to Stanford (when Cal superstar Luca Cupido was out with an illness) and did fall short of the realistic goal of repeating as the NCAA champs.
Bears will miss Luca Cupido but head coach Kirk Everist is great at making sure that the Bears’ talent level is restocked every year. Bears will also have to use a new No.1 goalkeeper next year (for the 3rd straight year) but as this season showed, the transition can be pretty seamless.
Bronze (tie): Men’s Soccer (11-7, NCAA 1st round) and Women’s Cross Country (22nd in country)
Both programs ended multiple year drought of missing out on the NCAA tournament. Men’s Soccer ended the season with a 2-1 home loss in the NCAA First round to University of San Francisco. Women’s Cross Country finished their season as the 22nd best team in the country.
Looking ahead, beside keeper Drake Callender, Cal Men’s Soccer does face another rebuild (plus the uncertainty about the future of the program and their future home with Edwards Stadium likely being turned into student housing). Women’s Cross Country will have three more years of Brie Oakley but her 2017 running mate Bethan Knights will have graduated.
Looking ahead to the winter/spring, here are the 3 top stories that may affect the prospect of those seasons.
- Cal Men’s Golf may compete for a NCAA championship - had strong fall start
Bears won 2 events while finished a the runner-ups in a 3rd.
I’m not sure the last time I got an A- while I was a student at Cal, but I’ll gladly take this grade from Golfweek! https://t.co/Y9qgHF2D6Z— Walter Chun (@CoachWalterC) December 8, 2017
- Cal Rugby may be in a rare rebuilding year - Bears placed 2nd in PAC 7s Championship behind Arizona
Pressed to play more youngsters (or vets without the abundance of big tournament experiences), Cal finished a shocking 2nd place at the PAC 7s championship for the first time in that tournament’s 6 year history. Yes, it took OT for host Arizona to upset the Golden Bears, but the Bears are not a shoo-in to a 3rd straight spring double of rugby 15s (Varsity Cup) and 7s (CRC) national titles.
- Cal Baseball ace Jared Horn involved in car accident - tragic news for the Cal ace who was injured while his family (father, teen brother, uncle, teen cousin) all passed away in a car accident caused by a drunk driver
Jared Horn is out of the hospital, but who knows if he will be in any physical (or mental) state to pitch for the Golden Bears in 2018 - Mike Neu’s first year at the helm of Cal Baseball.