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Golden Medals: Cal Softball and Lacrosse Previews

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And your typical weekly updates on Cal Olympic Sports

The 2017 season started on Thursday from Puerto Rico for Cal Softball
Cal Softbal Facebook

Quick note: a couple major Cal Olympic Sports events taking place this weekend will have their own individual posts elsewhere on CGB:

Cal Women’s Tennis is competing for a repeat of the ITA Indoor Team National Championship.

Cal Women’s Swimming’s Senior Day meet vs. Stanford (Saturday at noon PT from Spieker - your last chance to see Cal Women’s Swimming in Berkeley this year as well as all those USA Olympians that erroneously choose to go to Stanford), a meet that will also be broadcasted by the Pac-12 Networks, will be previewed in its own post tomorrow morning.

It is a busy weekend for Cal Athletics, we will concentrate on the two sports starting their seasons this weekend: Cal Softball and Cal Lacrosse, before checking on the rest of the Golden Bears.


Cal Softball Season Preview -

Pitching uncertainty is the only thing holding the Bears back

Current ranking: 24 in the country, 6th highest in the Pac

Random note: Cal Softball has changed their Twitter handle from @CalSoftball to @CalSB

2016 Record: 33-24-1; eliminated in NCAA Tournament, Alabama Regional by host Alabama

Key departures: SP Nisa Ontiveros (graduated), INF Taylor Koenig (not listed on the roster despite the former Tennessee transfer having one more year of eligibility)

Key newcomers: SP Bradie Fillmore (freshman) and SP Zoe Conley (redshirt sophomore transfer) - since pitching is a need

Conference outlook: Bears are picked to finish 6th in the coaches poll in the Pac-12 (9 teams - Washington State, Colorado, and Utah USC don’t have a team). UCLA/Arizona/Oregon/Washington are the preseason NCAA title contenders.

2017 Outlook: Great lineup is back, Bears should be NCAA bound again if they can find adequate pitching (big jump by Katie Sutherland-Finch/Stephanie Trzcinski or one of the newcomers). If the Bears can find great pitching, a return to the College World Series may even be possible - because the Cal lineup is that good.

Unfortunately, as Cal fans learned the hard way, replacing pitching led to the disappointing season few years ago when Jolene Henderson graduated. It took a couple of years of struggling before Nisa Ontiveros became a reliable ace for the Bears. What to watch for in the early part of the season is who will be the woman in the circle for the Bears.

While the Bears lack a big time bopper in the middle of the lineup like a Veronica Nelson or Valerie Arioto, there are plenty of speed and high OBP players at the top of the lineup. The Cal lineup of Jazmyn Jackson, Kylie Reed, and Lindsay Rood are all OBP machines due to their slapping ability and speed (and their athleticism also translates to a solid Cal defense). Former Tennessee transfer Annie Aldrete does provide some pop in the middle of the lineup, as does Kobie Pettis (team leader in RBI last year). Newcomer Bradie Fillmore will also bat in the middle of the Cal lineup (even on the days when she is not pitching). There are plenty of experience from top to bottom in the Cal lineup, one that should be good enough to score runs against anyone in college.

Golden Bears started the 2017 season on Thursday from Puerto Rico in the inaugural Puerto Rico Tournament. Bears are playing at the Estudio Donna Terry named for the former Cal head coach (1983-87) who had to step down after tragically contracting HIV from Hepatitis C health complications.

Golden Bears won their first game of the season with a convincing 8-1 victory over Georgia Tech. Bears started transfer Zoe Conley (who apparently was one of the Cal star during fall ball, not to mention a former member of the 2015 USA Junior National Team) who tossed a complete game 3 hitter (with 5 walks unfortunately) while allowing just 1 unearned run and striking out 8. Georgia Tech actually took a brief 1-0 lead before the Bears answered an inning later with 3 runs of their own as the top of the lineup providing the hits and runs scored (Rood and Reed scored the runs while Jackson provided a RBI).

Bears will face North Carolina at 10 AM PT today before facing both Georgia Tech and North Carolina for a doubleheader on Saturday. Bears will close their San Juan, Puerto Rico trip with a contest against Illinois on Sunday.

Bears then travel to Palm Springs for the Pal Springs Classic next weekend, before a road game at St. Mary’s follow by another tournament in Palm Springs for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. Golden Bears will make their Berkeley debut on March 1st when they host Pacific at 3 PM PT on a Wednesday.

Bears then travel to tournaments in Fullerton and then Tulsa, Oklahoma. Pac-12 conference play starts on March 17th (St. Patrick’s day) for the Bears on the road against (the appropriately dressed/colored) Oregon Ducks. Bears host their first Pac-12 series when rival Stanford (possibly still reeling from off the field problems from a couple of years ago) visits on March 25-27.


Cal Lacrosse Season Preview -

Is third year the charm for coach Brooke Eubanks?

2016 Record: 4-12

Conference Outlook: This is the final year for Cal in the MPSF. ASU elevating their club team to varsity status (in the current climate of teams being cut, ASU have added women’s lacrosse after men’s ice hockey) next year means that the 6 Pac-12 teams (Cal, Stanford, USC, Oregon, Colorado, and ASU) will form their own (Pac-12) conference. Both Stanford and USC finished the season as top 10 in the country. USC advanced to the NCAA QF as the first MPSF (aka West Coast) team in history.

In the meantime, Cal will look to qualify for the MPSF tournament at the end of the year (only the top 6 made the tournament in 2016). The MPSF conference includes the 5 current Pac-12 team in addition to UC Davis, Fresno State, Saint Mary’s, and San Diego State. MPSF recently lost Denver to the Big East.

2017 Outlook: The other occupants of Memorial Stadium will look to translate behind-the-scene improvements to wins-and-losses improvements in coach Brooke Eubanks’ third season as the leader of the Golden Bears. Eubanks’ team improved from 3 wins to 4 wins between her 1st and 2nd season. I expect the trend to continue as the Bears win 5 or more matches in 2017.

As I got to talk to the team briefly last year and did an email Q&A with head coach Eubanks after the team’s visit to Philadelphia last year, I got the sense that this is tight-knit team that at the time just got tighter after the defection of former striker star in Bella Huther (who lead the Bears in scoring both her freshman and sophomore seasons before leaving the team few weeks into her junior campaign). Without Huther, coach Eubanks was able to insert more of a balanced attack and return the top 3 scorers from last season in Elizabeth Pellechi (22 goals, 3 assists), Meredith Haggerty (20 goals, 4 assists), and Jena Fritts (10 goals, 20 assists). Senior Sarah Nolte is the Cal defensive leader.

Sophomore goalkeeper Jenny Wilkens, who had a great freshman season, should be even better in her 2nd year, especially if her defense can limit the number of shots that she faces in every contest. It has taken time for Eubanks to make Cal Lacrosse, the 2nd youngest of all Cal sports (the youngest being Beach Volleyball few years ago), her team from behind the scenes - year 3 is when things should all come together and for the team to be much more competitive.

Golden Bears open their season on Friday late afternoon from Memorial Stadium at 5pm PT against Denver (former MPSF foe who has now moved to the Big East in crazy women’s lacrosse realignment). The game will be streamed live. Bears then jump immediately into conference play at Oregon (who got a new coach this year) and then a trip to the midwest (Butler and then The Ohio State). The showdown against rival Stanford is on April 17th.


Cal Men’s Swimming routed USC

To the surprise of no one, California Golden Bears defeated USC Trojans easily, by a score of 177-109, last Saturday despite some rough weather. Bears won all but just one race in this meet.

Sophomore Andrew Seliskar earned the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Month honor. With the retirement of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte from the international scene, count on Andrew Seliskar to be one picking up that slack on future Team USA’s in both 200 Fly and 200 IM.

Golden Bears will wrap their dual meet season when they host Stanford on February 18th at noon (next Saturday) on Senior Day.


Cal Women’s Gymnastics edged by Utah

Without an injured Toni-Ann Williams (I’m not sure how long she’s out...if anyone knows, please comment below) who has a torn achilles (and likely out for the season), Cal Golden Bears could not take advantage of one poor bars rotation by the Utah Red Rocks. Undefeated 4th ranked Utes edged the previously undefeated Golden Bears 196.450 to 195.725.

Golden Bears had a pretty solid meet on the road, but left some points on the board in floor exercise, one of star Toni-Ann Williams’ best event.

Toni-Ann Williams confirmed in her Instagram comment that she has a torn achilles (tendon). A quick web search shows that the recovery time for this injury is fairly long (6 to 12 weeks in a cast before any rehab is possible). It is a tough setback for the Jamaican Calympian and for the team. Golden Bears without Williams are still good enough to possibly make the NCAA national championships, but the margin for error is obviously significantly less.

A setback is the best platform for a comeback. #roadtorecovery

A photo posted by Toni-Ann Williams (@toniann_williams) on

The Bears are back in the gym this Friday night from Arizona, when they take on the Wildcats. This meet at 6 pm PT is again on the Pac-12 Networks.

The Bears had a subpar performance at Arizona on Friday night to drop that meet. Maybe some home cooking is what the Bears need to get back on a roll.


Cal Women’s Water Polo lost to Stanford in Stanford Invitational Championship Match

4th ranked Cal Women’s Water Polo is no longer perfect after losing the championship match of the Stanford Invitational to host (and top ranked) Stanford by a 10-7 final score.

Earlier on the weekend, the Bears rolled through San Jose State 15-6, Michigan 13-9, and UC Davis 17-2. In the championship match, the Bears had to fight back from an early 4-0 deficit, but only was able to get as close as 6-5. Calympians Antal and Illes contributed 6 of the 7 Cal goals.

No. 1 Stanford 10, No. 4 Cal 7

Cal 1 3 1 2 – 7

Stan 4 2 2 2 – 10

Cal Goals: Dora Antal 4, Anna Illes 2, Emma Wright.

Stanford Goals: Kat Klass 3, Jamie Neushul 3, Katie Dudley, Dani Jackovich, Jordan Raney, Maggie Steffens.

Cal Saves: Madeline Trabucco 7.

Stanford Saves: Gabby Stone 8.

Bears play their official first conference match of the season at No.24 Cal State Bakersfield (CSUB) on Saturday at 1 PM PT. Bears then host Cal Speed Cup II next weekend with visiting Santa Clara and New York Athletic Club (for exhibition matches against Cal and Stanford).


Cal Men’s Gymnastics edged by Iowa

8th ranked Cal Bears were upset at home by the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes. Some poor scores on apparatus like the pommel horse (only 59.6) doomed the Bears. Bears also scored mediocrely in parallel bars, horizontal bars, and rings. Only on the floor and vault did the Bears excelled.

Individually, Aaron Mah won all around as well as floor and high bar. Yordan Aleksandrov finished 3rd all around and won rings and parallel bars.

No.8 Bears host a quad-meet this weekend against No.2 Stanford (again), No.14 ASU, and No.7 Nebraska.

The meet on Saturday night will start at 5:30 PM PT, with the live Pac-12 Networks coverage starting at 6:30 PM PT. Bears will honor their 1997 NCAA national championship winning squad at this home meet.


Cal Rugby (9-0, 2-0 in PAC) hosts ASU and Cal Poly on Saturday ahead of the biggest home match next Saturday

This is your reminder that the biggest home match for Cal Rugby is next Saturday, February 18th, at 2 PM PT when the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds visit Witter Field. Pac-12 Networks will have that contest and we will have an open thread. The UBC Thunderbirds are the last squad to beat the Golden Bears (they actually won both leg of the “World Cup” match last year). If you go to one rugby match in Berkeley, this should be the one that you attend.

In the meantime, the undefeated Bears will host ASU and Cal Poly this Saturday as further tune-ups.

GO BEARS!