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Golden Medals: Cal Rugby sweeps PAC play; Beach Volleyball and Tennis are on a roll

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Golden Bears are doing quite well in rugby, beach volleyball, and both men’s and women’s tennis in recent weeks.

Senior Jake Goena is one of the few veterans on a Cal Rugby squad that is counting on a lot of underclassmen in a still very successful season.
Cal Varsity Rugby Facebook page

Be on the look out tomorrow for my preview and open thread for Cal Women’s Gymnastics at the Pac-12 Championships. Golden Bears will compete in the 2nd session in the evening with the action on the Pac-12 Networks. Of course, Cal Men’s Swimming and Diving action is also covered elsewhere on our website.


Cal Rugby sweeps PAC conference play

Just off the field, the most important thing that happened during Homecoming weekend two weeks ago from Witter Field was the return of Robert Paylor. Paylor was in great spirit in his first trip back to his home field since his tragic injury in the Varsity Cup Championship match from Santa Clara last year.

Paylor, ever so eloquent despite his physical limitations, spoke glowingly about “coming home” to Berkeley. While I did not talk to him at the UCLA match, I did see happily catching up with friends on the sideline; it was great to see.

Rather than suing the University, Paylor has been going through the very expensive rehab thanks to the generous donations of the Cal Family, beyond just the rugby. You can still donate to his GoFundMe page. Pac-12 Network will have more on the inspirational story of Robert Paylor this Sunday.

On the field, the Golden Bears played UCLA and Army on Saturday and Sunday two weeks ago, respectively in the Cal Invitational. The Bears used a team of primarily reserves against UCLA.

Cal 58, UCLA 3

It was an easy victory for the Bears against the Bruins.

Matt Ternan scored 2 of the Bears’ 9 tries in this one.

Cal 50, Army 41

Bears played their usual starters against Army on Sunday. The Army Black Knights always fight hard and they would not go away until nearly the final few minutes when it became mathematically impossible for them to win the match.

It took a total team effort for the Bears to pull off this victory.

I chatted with captain Thomas Robles afterward. He called Army “a tough team...a fit team [that] brought their shoulders today, but fortunately [Cal was able] to match their will with rugby skills. All the props and respects to them because [Cal typically don’t get] opponents that marched in Witter Rugby Field, Strawberry Canyon, with this much confidence.”

Flyhalf Troy Lockyear played his first match of the season in this one after his season last year was cut short due to an injury.

Robles called playing in front of all the Cal Rugby alumni “a great honor” since “they are the reason [current players] have this beautiful facility [and the history of rugby] being the oldest intercollegiate sports on campus since 1882. While [he is still a student, he will try his best] to be a great custodian of the blue and gold stripes and hopefully make the program a better place after he [is done] then before he got here.”

Cal 80, Utah 0

This past weekend, the Bears continued their winning ways by winning easily from Salt Lake City. Bears completed a perfect 6-0 run in the PAC conference play to ensure themselves of a spot in the still not quite finalized D1A Collegiate Rugby National Championships playoff this year. Justin Dunn and Sam Cusano had 4 and 3 tries, respectively, from the outside to pace the Bears.

Despite having new players in the front row and the middle row this season, the Bears have seamlessly integrated a lot of younger players into the squad. The freshman-sophomore team has also done quite well this year that they are probably a top 10 team if a separate squad.

Golden Bears (18-1, 6-0 in PAC play) will next host Dartmouth this weekend before the highly anticipated rematch against St. Mary’s College on April 7th from Moraga. SMC is actually ranked ahead of the Bears this year. SMC won the D1A national championship last year while the Golden Bears won the Varsity Cup. This year, both teams will play in the same postseason.

When I asked captain Thomas Robles about the impending SMC match, one which the Bears lost last year, he said “we don’t think about revenge or think about coming back to win games that we’ve won in the past [since it is always about] what this year’s team bring to the table.” That’s a great attitude; but I am sure Cal fans would love nothing more than a big statement win ahead of postseason play.


Cal Beach Volleyball on a 11 match winning streak

Ever since the Bears lost the season opening match to SMC, they have won 11 straight (and counting), including a rematch against St. Mary’s.

Golden Bears (11-1) lost to St. Mary’s by a 2-3 margin but have since every match by either 4-1 (4 times) or 5-0 results (7 times). Bears have beaten Pacific 4-1, Santa Clara 5-0, San Jose State 4-1, Boise State 5-0, Tulane, 5-0, San Jose State 5-0, Arizona State 4-1, Sacramento State 5-0, St. Mary 4-1, San Jose State 5-0, and Pacific 5-0.

The winning streak has the Bears up to No.15 in the country.

Three Cal pairs have been playing particularly well lately. No. 2 Jessica Gaffney-Iya Lindahl, No. 4 Caroline Schafer-Mia Merino and No. 5 Grace Campbell-Maddie Micheletti are each 8-0 in the past two weekends. The other two pairs for the Bears are the all-freshman No.1 of Alexia Inman-Mima Mirkovic and No.3 Bryce Bark-Madison Dueck.

Things do get significantly harder this weekend from Santa Monica as the Bears will face off against Pac-12 foes in No.4 USC, No.2 UCLA, No.10 Arizona, and No.20 Washington in the Pac-12 South Tournament.

PAC-12 SOUTH TOURNAMENT

Ocean Park Beach - Santa Monica, Calif.

SATURDAY, MAR. 24

No. 16 Cal vs. No. 4 USC, 10 a.m.

No. 16 Cal vs. No. 19 Washington, 1 p.m.

SUNDAY, MAR. 25

No. 16 Cal vs. No. 2 UCLA, 9 a.m.

No. 16 Cal vs. No. 11 Arizona, 2 p.m.


Cal Women’s Tennis opens Pac-12 play with 3-1 record

After some early season struggle, the freshmen dominated Cal Women’s Tennis (7-5) have opened official Pac-12 play with a solid 3-1 record.

Two weeks ago, Golden Bears took care of USC by a 7-0 result with senior Maria Smith getting the clincher. Bears then dropped a very tough 3-4 home decision to UCLA Bruins whose Jada Hart played out of her mind for the 2nd and 3rd set to upset Cal’s Anna Bright in court 2 for the difference maker.

In both of those matches, freshman Julia Rosenqvist won both of her matches in court no.1 and earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honor.

After the match vs. Texas Tech was rained out, the Golden Bears battled the element to squeeze in home wins over Colorado (4-2) and Utah (7-0) this past weekend. Vivian Glozeman earned the clincher in both matches.

I saw Cal senior Karla Popovic around the Hellman Tennis Complex wearing a huge icepack on her leg. I think she will likely get back in action before the season is over. Otherwise, 5 freshmen have seen a decent amount of play time for the Bears in 4 spots. Rosenqvist and Bright are both top of the order type of players. Glozeman, Jasie Dunk, Hana Mraz (with her signature mismatching color tennis shoes) rotate through the bottom two spots. Cal senior Olivia Haugher and junior Maria Smith are the two vets that are holding down the middle of the rotation.

Golden Bears have this week off before heading on the road to the Arizona schools next weekend.


Cal Men’s Tennis wins Indian Wells Collegiate

Like the Cal women, Cal men’s tennis is also quite young in 2018. Despite some early growing pains, Golden Bears won the BNP Paribas Open Collegiate Challenge from Indian Wells, CA last weekend, winning three dual meets in three days.

Bears beat Purdue 4-0, Baylor 4-2, before edging the top seed Arizona State 4-3 for the crown. Freshmen Jack Molloy and Ben Draper (both from the UK) basically won simultaneously to give the Bears the victory. The win would not have been possible if the senior doubles pair of Billy Griffith and JT Nishimura did not win their deciding court 1 doubles match in the tiebreaker.

Bears got this win on the heel of a 4-1 Pac-12 opening win at Arizona (Bears’ regular season match vs. ASU was rained out).

With their winning streak, Bears are back in the top 25 in team rankings.

Bears will take their 5 match winning streak on the road next weekend against the LA schools. That will be a real litmus test of how far the Bears have come. Freshmen Paul Berreto and Jacob Brumm are two more members of the No.1 recruiting class in the country that are regulars in the Cal lineup this year. Cal seniors Billy Griffith (ranked 57th in the country) is the new Cal No.1 this year with J.T. Nishimura playing as the No.2.

GO BEARS!