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Golden Medals: W. Soccer starts year with 2 wins and Cal Volleyball preview

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Cal Women’s Soccer already has a big win in their first weekend of action when the Bears came from behind to defeat No.24 Santa Clara 2-1.

Christina Alftin will be one of the few returning starter for the Golden Bears in 2017.
Cal Volleyball Twitter

As the new school year ramps up (first day of class was this Wednesday for the Golden Bears), we are getting more and more Cal Athletics action every weekend. After Cal Women’s Soccer kicking off their season last week, Cal Field Hockey (check out my preview here), Men’s Soccer (my preview from last week), and Volleyball will also begin their seasons this weekend.

Cal Field Hockey will host powerhouse Syracuse and then Michigan State, today and Monday, respectively.

After the Field Hockey match, Cal fans can find their way over to Edwards Stadium as Cal Men’s Soccer will take on West Virginia.

After the Cal Men’s Soccer match, Cal fans can next head over to Haas Pavilion for Cal Volleyball’s season opener against UC Irvine. Cal Volleyball is hosting the Molten Classic and will play three matches this weekend. All the Cal matches will be streamed online for free.

Cal vs. UC Irvine

Friday, Aug. 25 | 7 PM PT | Haas Pavilion | Berkeley, Calif..

LIVE STATS | LIVE VIDEO

Cal vs. Loyola Chicago

Saturday, Aug. 26 | 10 AM PT | Haas Pavilion | Berkeley, Calif..

LIVE STATS | LIVE VIDEO

Cal vs. Seattle

Saturday, Aug. 26 | 7:30 PM PT | Haas Pavilion | Berkeley, Calif..

LIVE STATS | LIVE VIDEO

For those Cal fans willing to travel a little bit outside the confines of Berkeley but still within the Bay Area, No.19 Cal Women’s Soccer has two road matches this weekend: at San Francisco tonight at 7 pm PTand at UC Davis on Sunday, 1 pm PT.


Sophomore Abi Kim picks up the scoring slack for Cal Women’s Soccer

With the graduations of Arielle Ship and Ifeoma Onumonu, the biggest questions for the Cal Women’s Soccer coming into the 2017 was who will be the go-to scorer. Sophomore Abi Kim quickly answered that questions with 3 goals in two matches. She also drew the deciding penalty kick for the Golden Bears.

Bears opened the year with a 2-1 win over UC Irvine as Kim scored a brace. Against then No.24 Santa Clara on the Pac-12 Networks, Golden Bears fell behind 1-0 in the first half. Of course, Bears do not quit and kept on fighting.

Kim scored both the equalizer and draw the penalty kick that was calmly converted by senior Kelly Fitzgerald. Golden Bears earn their 2nd 2-1 victory of the weekend.

Deservedly, Kim was named Pac-12’s offensive player of the week.

With the two wins, the Golden Bears’ confidence is high. Bears are now ranked No.19 in the coaches’ poll. TopDrawer is even more bullish on the Bears by ranking them 6th in the nation.

Bears will build on the early success when they hit the road this weekend at USF tonight and at UC Davis on Sunday.


Cal Volleyball - the Matt McShane Era begins

On and off the court, Cal Volleyball will see plenty of players stepping into the spotlight in their 2017 campaign. Most likely, the key players/personnel are folks who have been in the program for at least an year or two. Nevertheless, with the graduation of former libero Maddy Kerr, setter Alyssa Jansen, and retirement of head coach Rich Feller after 18 years, Golden Bears are starting a new era.

New head coach Matt McShane was a former assistant for Feller before coming back to Cal last year to be the associate head coach. After Feller stepped down this spring, McShane was named the new head coach. A smooth transition was expected and the Bears hold on to their 15th ranked freshmen class who may be good enough for the Bears to get back to the NCAA tournament, despite new starters in the majority of key positions.

The new setter for the Golden Bears may be junior Mackenzie Albrecht who saw a few starts last year when Jansen was hurt. McShane will also have the options to use a freshman as two setters, Isabel Potter and Jordyn Schuette, are joining the program. I doubt the Bears will consider running the system with two setters in 2017 though. It is not clear yet, who out of the three QBs will start next Saturday setter will start tonight. Albrecht and Potter were the two starters during the Blue vs. Gold scrimmage last week, by the way. I think Albrecht will draw the start this weekend.

Taking over the libero position (the player that always wear the different color uniform) from Maddy Kerr, who has started every match in her Cal career, will likely be junior Amanda Kirtley. For the back row, Bears are adding a sophomore transfer from Hawaii in Emma Smith as well.

Replacing the graduated Jenelle Jordan, who is having a fine time winning with Team USA at the World University Games these past two weeks from Taiwan, in the middle will be a pair of freshmen studs - Preslie Anderson (No.38 ranked in the country) and Lauren Forte (No.43 ranked in the country).

The main returning outside hitter for the Bears will be senior Christina Alftin, who hopefully has found another gear this offseason to be much more efficient with her kills, as the all-rotation hitter. It would also be very interesting to see how much improvements sophomores Maddie Haynes and Bailee Huizenga made during the offseason. Plagued by injuries during her Cal career thus far, redshirt junior Ashten Smith-Gooden, a former top 10 recruit in the country, may also bounced back in style.

Uniform thoughts:

Cal Volleyball’s new uniform has the most creative use of the Sather Stripes thus far. The Stripes are on the sleeves at a diagonal locations of elbow and upper arm. The asymmetrical design is certainly something different. The Golden Bears will also have the full scripted “California” or “Golden Bears” on their chests. I am still not quite used to the script “Golden Bears”, to be honest. Given how many Cal Volleyball alum find their ways to Europe to play some pro ball while modeling, the Bears look good in any kind of uniforms.

Rest of the Pac:

Of course, Pac-12 is expected to be very tough yet again. Stanford, NCAA champs last year, will have their 2016 No.1 ranked class in the country back for their sophomore campaign even if they also have a new head coach for 2017 in Kevin Hambly (who came over from Illinois). For the Cal Bears, the goal for 2017 is not to compete for the Pac-12 or NCAA title but merely be the middle of the Pac to return to the NCAA tournament. This task won’t be easy, but is certainly plausible if the Bears can find a setter and new offense quickly.

In the preseason poll: Stanford is ranked No.2, Washington is No.3, UCLA is No.13, Oregon (also with a new head coach) is No.18, Utah is No.23, and Arizona is No.24. USC and Washington State also received votes.

GO BEARS!