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Golden Medals: Cal Rugby 135, Stanford 0; Softball and Lacrosse season previews (both opens play today)

Women’s Water Polo came close to the No.1 ranking. Women’s Gymnastics continues homestand.

The Scrum Axe is staying in Berkeley for another year...22 years and counting
Cal Varsity Rugby Twitter

Cal Rugby (8-0) keeps on doing its thing

In case you missed it, this happened on Wednesday night. Cal Rugby defeated Stanford by a score of 135 to 0 with the Golden Bears scoring 22 tries from 12 different players.

In the process, the Golden Bears retain “the big scrum axe” for the 22nd straight year (and counting).

Despite the Bears resting the more veteran players in this mid-week contest by starting 13 freshmen and sophomores, Stanford was still no match (at least they showed up, which is not a given for that club) in this PAC rugby conference opener for both sides. By the time when the scoreboard stops counting up, your California Golden Bears have improved to 8-0 in 15’s play and 1-0 in conference play. Stanford drops to 0-4, 0-1 in PAC play.

Bears also won an 85-10 decision down at San Diego State last Saturday, which funnily is a much more competitive final score.

The Golden Bears will next host Cal Maritime and Utah Valley this Saturday before more PAC rugby action with a trip to Arizona the next weekend (Saturday at Arizona, Monday at Arizona State). A real big test against a side, which has become more and more club-like (with more mid-twenties and on players) in recently years, AKA University of British Columbia will take place from the friendly confines of Witter Field on February 24th.

No.2 Cal Women’s Water Polo (9-1) edged by No.1 Stanford in Stanford Invitational Final; Dora Antal set new Cal record for career goals

First some history, Dora Antal is now alone at the top as the all time leading goal scorer in Cal Women’s Water Polo history. The Hungarian Calympian did the inevitable by setting the Cal record in the match against San Jose State with the first of her 3 goals.

After defeating San Jose State by an 18-3 final (Bears scored 9 unanswered goals), the Bears had a close 11-10 won over Michigan in which Antal, possibly emotionally drained from achieving history earlier on the day, was held goalless.

On the Sunday, Bears started the day by beating UC Davis 14-9 (3 more goals for Antal) to setup a 1 vs. 2 in country final at the Stanford Invitation on Sunday afternoon. Again, despite Antal being held goalless, the Bears came close in this one. After having a brief 3-1 lead in the first quarter, Stanford took charge in the middle two quarters by scoring 5 answered goals. Bears fought back late in the 3rd quarter but Stanford eventually took a 11-6 lead in the middle of the 4th quarter. The Bears would not quit and answered with 3 quick goals in a minute but ran out of time. Stanford get to retain their No.1 ranking in the country while the Bears would have to wait to achieve the No.1 ranking for the first time in program history.

Of course, there should be a few more meetings between Cal and Stanford in 2018 (the regularly scheduled one is March 4th from Stanford).

No. 1 Stanford 11, No. 2 Cal 9

Cal 3 0 3 3 - 9

Stan 2 2 5 2 – 11

Cal Goals: Carla Carrega 3, Sarah Siepker 2, Emma Wright 2, Anna Illes, Kitty Lynn Joustra

Stanford Goals: Kat Klass 5, Madison Berggren 2, Makenzie Fischer 2, Shannon Cleary, Aria Fischer.

Cal Saves: Madison Tagg 4.

Stanford Saves: Julia Hermann 6.

Bears will have a relatively easy weekend by just playing against the alumni on Saturday. Bears will then travel to Davis and then Irvine in the next two weekends before MPSF conference matches start in March.

Cal Softball 2018 Preview

2017 Final Results: 32-24, 6-17 in Pac-12 play, knocked out in Auburn Regional (Bears were 2-2 with both losses coming against the host)

Key Returnees: USA Softball team member, outfielder Jazmyn Jackson is back for her senior campaign. Ace Zoe Conley is a redshirt junior in her 2nd season as a Golden Bears. Junior Lindsay Rood is back to be one of the table setter. Also back is Kobie Pettis, who has been a fixture in the Cal middle of the lineup. Bradie Fillmore, a top recruit who had struggled somewhat in her freshman year, may take a big step forward this year.

Key Departures: Infielder Kylie Reed (one of three top hitters alongside Jackson and Rood) and catcher Annie Aldrete (one of few Bears with power in 2017) have graduated. Cal also graduated a pair of experienced pitchers in Katie Sutherland-Finch and Stephanie Trzcinski. A total of 7 seniors have graduated.

Key Newcomers: Kamalani Dung, a transfer from Fresno State and a former Mountain West Pitcher of the Year, will help Conley out in the circle. Marcella Kay, who hit 13 homers for Foothill College to also lead that conference last year. All of the Cal freshmen are from the state of California - catcher Lauren Espalin and infielder Karlee Sparacino may be the ones that break through the lineup. They are part of the 8 new faces (5 freshmen, 3 transfers) on the squad.

For Cal Softball, the first female Cal Athletics team to win a national championship, just making the postseason is not really success. Golden Bears are seeking a return trip to the NCAA World Series in Oklahoma City.

To get back to that point, the Bears will need to do better in the always tough Pac-12 play (even if SEC has overtaken the PAC in recent year for softball dominance - SEC qualified every team into the tournament in 2017). Golden Bears scored a bunch of runs last year without hitting many homers (team high was 3, achieved by 3 Bears) with just 13 overall (Cal’s opponents hit 41 homers, for comparison). I expect some of the newcomers to provide more big flies.

Jazmyn Jackson and Lindsay Rood should continue to lead the Bears with their nearly 0.400 OBP. Jackson with her speed led the Bears with 17 doubles (and 3 homers) for a clear team high 0.515 slugging percentage. Rood’s 0.419 OBP was by far the top on the team.

The addition of Dung inside the circle may really pay dividends for the Bears comes the postseason. While Conley has been great despite her miniature stature, Dung may give the Bears that 2nd reliable pitchers. Long gone are the days when one pitcher can carry a team to postseason glory. By giving their opponents a different look, having two workhorses also can help the Bears with winning more conference series.

The 2018 season starts today for the Bears from Sacramento for the Capitol City Kickoff. Bears will take on UC Santa Barbara at 12:30 pm PT today. They will then play both Santa Clara and host Sacramento State on both Saturday and Sunday for a total of 5 games this weekend. With the Bears having a great historical records against all the other teams this weekend, we may not learn much other than the 2018 regular lineup by the end of this weekend. Should the Bears be a serious contender, anything short of a weekend sweep would be disappointing.

Cal Lacrosse Preview

2017 Final Results: 5-13, 2-6 in Pac-12 play

Key Returnees: Sophomore attacker Susie Ropp (27 goals, 13 assists - 3rd in goals, 2nd in assists and points in MPSF last year) is by far the top returning Bear statistically. Despite losing a lot of offense, Kirsten Swanson (20 goals) and Caroline Corzel (19 goals) are back. Goalkeeper Jenny Wilkens, who had won a couple Defensive Player of the Week honors, is ready for her junior campaign. First team all-MPSF defender Meredith Haggerty, a team captain for 2018, is also back. Haggerty is often the go-to defender for the Bears on the opposing team’s top scorer.

Key Departures: Jena Fritts, who lead the Bears with 46 goals and 17 assists - both team high, have graduated. Team’s 2nd leading scorer, Elizabeth Pellechi, who had 30 goals, was also a senior. Caroline Schlegal and her 21 goals has also graduated.

2018 will be the first year of official Pac-12 Women’s Lacrosse play with the Pac-12 teams breaking off from MPSF. The inaugural Pac-12 lacrosse season will end with a tournament being held at Boulder, Colorado. The new program at Arizona State, starting play this year, means that there are enough Pac-12 schools (6) to have its own conference. The 6 Pac-12 teams are Cal, Arizona State, Stanford, Oregon, No.17 Colorado, and No.8 USC. The new conference setup means that each Pac-12 team will play every other Pac-12 team twice (home and home).

Despite another losing season, the Bears were pleased to make the MPSF tournament last year (they were one and down after losing to Stanford). In this 4th season under head coach Brooke Eubanks, the Bears will look to achieve even more. This marks the first season when everyone on the roster has only been coached by Eubanks. With “#WinnersMentality” being the slogan for this year, we shall see if the Cal squad can make the leap and come closer to winning at least half of their games.

Cal Women’s Gymnastics wins home opener against ASU

After many weekends on the road, Cal Women’s Gymnastics finally made their home debut last weekend. The Bears were successful in outscoring the visiting ASU.

Home cooking allowed the Bears to achieve season high of 195.950. The score could be even better as the Bears had to count a fall in the beam with only 4 of 6 routines being a hit. As a team, the Bears posted the 4th best floor score in program history.

Freshmen Nina Schank won the bar with 9.85. Senior Arianna Robinson won the vault with 9.90. Toni-Ann Williams won her team high 8th event of the season by winning the floor with a 9.95.

All around, all of the Bears appear to have at least one routine scoring above 9.80. Several Bears also achieved some career best marks. Cal sophomore Keelen achieved career high in both of her events (beam and vault).

Bears will host another Pac-12 squad in No.4 UCLA this weekend on Saturday. The meet, starting at 11:30 AM PT, will be broadcasted live on the Pac-12 Networks. Golden Bears will wear new pink leotards for breast cancer awareness. They will be raffled post meet to raise money for breast cancer research.

Other Cal teams in action this weekend include Men’s Gymnastics at Stanford on Saturday, Men’s Tennis at Michigan on Sunday, and Track and Field at the Huskies Classic in Seattle.

An open thread will exist for Sunday’s Saturday’s Cal Women’s Swimming dual meet at rival Stanford at noon PT which will have the online live stream information.