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Cal Fall 2018 Olympic Sports Previews: Big shoes/cleats/speedo to fill for young Bears

Previewing the 2018 season for Cal Men’s & Women’s Soccer, Volleyball, and Field Hockey.

The Cal Women’s Soccer season started last weekend.
Cal Women’s Soccer Twitter

Peter Cutino Award winner for the best men’s collegiate water polo player. A player who can both score the game winning goal or shut down the opposing team’s top scorer at crunch time. 2016 Rio Calympian Luca Cupido...has graduated.

2017 Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year. Cal Women’s Soccer’s all-time leader in Clean Sheets. Emily Boyd...has graduated.

Heart and soul of the Cal Men’s Soccer team. All Pac-12 First Team Honoree. Jose Carrera-Garcia...has graduated.

One of the top distance runner in school history. Cal’s top Women’s Cross Country runner in all 11 meets the past two years. Bethan Knights...has graduated.

For the 4 Cal teams that made the NCAA postseason last fall, they all face some uncertainties coming into the 2018 season given the big roles vacated by some remarkable athletes (future Cal Athletics Hall of Fame inductees?).

For Cal Volleyball, Field Hockey, and Men’s Cross Country who all missed the NCAA postseason, they will look to take that next step forward as programs and become postseason teams.

Young talent (and there are plenty of that), or more importantly the maturation of these Cal student-athletes this season, will greatly decide the successes of Cal Olympic Sports in the Fall of 2018.

Welcome back to the new school year where Cal Athletics will look to reach 100 in team national titles (currently at 98).

Cal Women’s Soccer (1-1) - Is Abi Kim the next Cal star to make USWNT?

Twitter: @CalWSoc

Big Kick*: 11/2 at 3pm PT from Edwards Stadium (Berkeley, CA); match will be on the Pac-12 Networks

Last year: 13-6-1, 6-4-1 in Pac-12, NCAA postseason, upset in 1st round by Santa Clara

Expectation: A 15th straight NCAA postseason appearance

Our Rob Hwang previewed Cal Women’s Soccer last week.

Two games into the season, we have some actual results (yes, very small sample size) to scrutinize for Cal Women’s Soccer.

Cal 3, Utah Valley 0

New goalkeeper, redshirt freshman, Olivia Sekany started her Cal career with a clean sheet, needing just one save. Bears got goals from junior budding superstar Abi Kim, as well as first career goals by Caroline Clark and Jordyn Elliott.

Cal 1, No.19 Santa Clara 4

For some reason (either a scheduled rest for Kim since she played a lot of soccer during the summer with the USA U-20 team in the U-20 World Cup in France), Abi Kim missed this match. Watching a bit of the stream online, Bears played better than the final result. Credit to a very experienced Santa Clara squad to keep on attacking the young Cal defense to find those goals - off one set piece and three good crosses. Late in this one, Kayla Fong spoiled the Bronco’s clean sheet with a goal. Mia Corbin picked up her 2nd assist on the year on that goal. Sekany made 4 saves in this one despite allowing 4 goals.

Abi Kim, from 3 goals in her freshman year to a co-team’s best 7 goals last year, should again be the focal point of the Cal offense this year. Missing the first weekend of action is also senior Miranda Nild, the other 7 goal scorer last season, who spent the summer playing with the Thai national team and will be a part of the Women’s World Cup from France next year (Nild played an important role in helping Thailand to qualify). Bears will be a different team once both of them are playing.

So far, midfielders Luca Deza and Mia Corbin have been pretty good in creating opportunities for the Bears, who did show the ability in numerous times during the Santa Clara match for some quick counter attacks.

Defensively, Cal sophomore captain Emma Smith has to QB some even less experienced teammates around. You would expect the defense to improve over the course of the season with more experiences.

Bears will host Harvard on Friday, part of 6 doubleheaders with men’s soccer. They will then host San Diego State next Friday and UC Santa Barbara next Sunday. Per usual, Bears will have plenty of home cooking during the nonconference part of the season to let the youngsters gel as a squad.

Pac-12 play will be tough as the top ranked teams in the country right now are the defending champ Stanford (even after graduating USWNT team member Andi Sullivan) and UCLA. Pac-12 player consists of a single match against every other team - all Pac-12 schools have a women’s soccer team.

*May not be the official name of this rivalry.

Cal Men’s Soccer - Drake Callender is the next Cal goalkeeper star

Twitter: @CalMSoc

Season Opener: 8/24 vs. Detroit Mercy at 2pm PT from Edwards Stadium (Berkeley, CA)

Bay Area Derby: 10/7 at 3pm PT from Edwards Stadium (Berkeley, CA); 11/8 at 6pm PT from Maloney Field (Stanford, CA); both matches will be on the Pac-12 Networks

Last year: 11-7, 6-4 in Pac-12 play, NCAA postseason, knocked out in 1st round by USF

Expectation: One goal here or there across 3-4 matches may decide whether the Golden Bears can make it back to the NCAA postseason in consecutive years

In addition to Jose Carrera-Garcia, Bears also graduated playmaker Paul Salcedo and defenders in Joshua Morton and Ugo Rebecchini. Compare to the steadiness of Cal Women’s Soccer, Cal men’s soccer is much more cyclical year-to-year. With fewer spots in the postseason (there are fewer men’s soccer program), it is harder for Cal to maintain a great team also due to the opportunities of great players to turn pro sooner.

Leading goal scorer Shinya Kadono, who came out of nowhere last year, is back. Bears need other youngsters to make the leap this year, like what Kadono did last year, to stay as a postseason quality side. He will again be set up by fellow senior Sam Ebstein in the midfield. Sophomore Francisco Perez is another one to watch in the midfield for the Bears.

Bears do have a fine recruiting class with 3 Top-100 freshmen joining the mix: defenders JJ Foe Nuphaus and Ian Lonergan, midfielder Taylor Davila. Those two young defenders are expected to be thrown into the fire as the main Cal stoppers ahead of junior keeper star Drake Callender.

Callender had a great year last year after taking over the starting keeper role from Jonathan Klinsmann (who turned pro by moving to a German team). Callender made a Pac-12 best 72 saves and posted 6 clean sheets. He has already been named to the Hermann Trophy (for the top soccer player, not just the keeper) watchlist.

Bears will open the year against Detroit Mercy on Friday, then host Incarnate Word on Sunday. A highlight of the nonconference season is the match against Sacramento State from the neutral site of the home of San Jose Earthquakes at the Avaya Stadium on September 6th. Pac-12 conference will again be home and away against other Pac-12 teams - Washington and Oregon State to the North, UCLA and Pac-12 affiliate San Diego State to the South, rival Stanford is coming off another NCAA championship winning season as the two-time defending champ.

This year, CGB will have much better Men’s Soccer coverage as our new writer Rick Chen will attend most home matches. He will give us weekly updates on the season.

Cal Field Hockey - Sophomore campaign for Megan Rodgers and her talented class

Twitter: @CalFieldHockey

Season Opener: 8/24 vs. Providence at 6pm PT from Underhill Field (Berkeley, CA)

Big Stick*: 10/12 at 4pm PT from Underhill Field (Berkeley, CA); 10/21 at 1pm PT from Varsity Field Hockey Turf (Stanford, CA); both matches will be on the Pac-12 Networks

Last year: 9-8, 4-2 in conference play, eliminated in American East tournament first round by New Hampshire

Expectation: Team should be even better but the improvement may not be reflected in the final results given the tough schedule (another 9-8 season is likely).

Check out Megan Rodgers’ stats from her freshman season last year: 17 goals - 3rd best freshman in the country, 6th best at Cal all-time; 37 points - 7th all-time at Cal; 4 game-winning goal; 0.537 shooting percentage. Rodgers put up one of the best Cal Field Hockey offensive season in recent memory. What will she do in 2018 as an encore? The San Diego native is hoping to make the USA National Team in the future. She may be on her way to be a Calympian for the 2020 Tokyo games.

Rodgers’ success, buoyed by the rest of her talented class, was a major reason as to why the Bears were able to finally post a winning season again, as well as defeat rival Stanford in one of the two regular season matchup to claim a share of the Western Division title in American East conference.

Cal Field Hockey was able to feel a lot more comfortable playing back in Berkeley in the second year of the Underhill Field in 2017 (after few years of homelessness that required games and even full team practices to be conducted at Stanford); last year was also the first season with a lot of the amenities such as locker room and bathrooms ready to use. This year, the game atmosphere is expected to be even better.

Almost all of the key players are back for the 2018 campaign - from sophomore keeper Danielle Mentink to other scorers in junior captains Melina Moore (8 goals) and Janaye Sakkas (3 goals), and sophomore playmakers in Katrina Carter (4 assist) and Femke Delissen (team best 9 assist to this Physics major). Just how good the Bears are will be tested quickly as they host No.4 Maryland on Sunday at noon PT. Bears’ opener is Friday at 6pm PT against Providence.

Golden Bears are one of four west coast team along side UC Davis, Pacific, and rival Stanford; they are all a part of the American East conference. The four schools play a home-and-away against every other team, only in the season ending conference tournament do the Western schools face the Eastern division schools.

*May not be the official name of this rivalry.

Cal Volleyball - The Dorr era officially opens

Twitter: @CalVolleyball

Season Opener: 8/24 vs. Chicago State at 10am PT from Haas Pavilion (Berkeley, CA)

Big Spike: 9/19 at 8pm PT from Haas Pavilion (Berkeley, CA); 11/24 at TBA from Maples Pavilion (Stanford, CA); both matches will be on the Pac-12 Networks

Last year: 13-18, 4-16 in Pac-12 play

Expectation: 9-21 to 13-18 to even closer to 0.500 (matching it would likely mean a postseason berth) for Cal Volleyball in this new regime

There is a new head coach for Cal Volleyball as Jennifer Dorr, who has been a Cal assistant coach for 5 years but has been with the program since 2009; she lost the interim term from her title since the end of last season. Technically, Dorr took over for the team (it’s still publicly unknown why Matt McShane opted to step away for the last two weeks of the season) late last year. It does not appear that Cal Athletics did a wide search for a replacement before deciding to give the job to Dorr full-time. Dorr in the press release mentioned a “cultural change” this year, which may be a hint of the obvious behind-the-scene problems for the program last year.

The Golden Bears were able to improve slightly from the previous year (which is not saying much) but still have a way to go to get back to the postseason. While Bears graduated Christina Alftin (4-year starter who also occupied the outside hitter spot that plays every rotation) and Antzela Dempi (who came out of nowhere to lead the team in kills last year as the opposite), they also get back a sophomore Mima Mirkovic who was 2nd on the team in kills. Mirkovic followed her successful indoor debut with a great year in beach volleyball during the spring; she should have an even stronger all-around game this year. Mirkovic and senior Carmen Annevelink should be the two leaders again in kills for the Golden Bears.

Bears have 7 newcomers to the team, many of whom are expected to be impact players. According to the press release freshman Jade Blevins has already earned the starting setter job. Bears have two other setters with a lot of experience in sophomore Isabel Potter and senior Mackenzie Albrecht since they ran a 6-2 system last year (to varying degrees of success). It is not clear for the moment what the system will be for the Bears in 2018.

Bears will host Chicago State, Rutgers and Colgate at Haas Pavilion for their annual Cal Molten Classic this weekend (August 24/25). Given how tough the Pac-12 season will be, the non-conference schedule is weak by design; a near perfect record would be great but may not mean that much.

The Pac-12 season will be bookended by the two Big Spikes on 9/19 and 11/24. In the not quite true round robin schedule for Pac-12 play this year in volleyball (by charter, all Pac-12 teams must have a Volleyball team), Cal will face the mountain schools just once - a trip to Utah and a home game vs. Colorado.

Check back next Friday for my more detailed previews of Cal Men’s Water Polo (how will they replace Luca Cupido?) and Men’s and Women’s Cross Country (will Brie Oakley have a better Cal career than Bethan Knights?)! Those teams’ first action will be September 1st (next Saturday).

This is our first weekend of nearly full Cal Athletics action on campus. Cal fans, both old and new (welcome!), can see Volleyball, Women’s Soccer, Men’s Soccer, and Field Hockey in action in Berkeley. The Volleyball and Field Hockey matches will also be streamed (check the comment section below for links to these Cal events).

Opportunities abound for current Cal players to join the list of former greats named at the top of this post. Fittingly, the Cal Athletics hashtag this year is #EarnIt.

Go see sophomore Mima Mirkovic (Volleyball), junior Abi Kim (Women’s Soccer), junior Drake Callendar (Men’s Soccer), sophomore Megan Rodgers (Field Hockey), etc. earn their Cal legacy!


Which Cal Fall Olympic Sport are you most excited about?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Cal Women’s Soccer
    (4 votes)
  • 22%
    Cal Men’s Soccer
    (4 votes)
  • 11%
    Cal Volleyball
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Cal Field Hockey
    (0 votes)
  • 44%
    Cal Men’s Water Polo
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Cal Cross Country
    (0 votes)
18 votes total Vote Now