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Golden Medals: Early impressions of Cal Fall Olympic Sports

Plenty to like and plenty to worry about for all of the Cal fall sports

Mima Mirkovic and the 5-1 Cal Volleyball team have feasted on an easy non-conference schedule
Cal Volleyball Twitter

With 2-3 weeks of actions for the most part, Cal Athletics overall have another strong start, feasting on early home cooking.

Cal Volleyball (5-1)

Golden Bears officially opened the Jennifer Dorr era with 3 sweeps at the Cal Molten Classic, against Chicago State, Rutgers, and Colgate. Bears then traveled to Vermillion, South Dakota in their 2nd weekend where they beat Northern Colorado in 4 sets, lost to South Dakota in 4 close sets, and then swept Northeastern in 3 sets.

Sophomore Mima Mirkovic leads the Bears with 71 kills (3.55 kills/set) while hitting 0.295. Interestingly, the beach volleyball standout (where an all-around game is needed) also leads the Bears with 79 digs, more than libero Emma Smith who has 61 digs. Junior Bailee Huizenga and senior Carmen Annevelink are next with 52 and 51 kills, respectively.

Sophomore middle blocker Preslie Anderson is the most efficient Cal hitter with a hitting percentage of 0.413 and the team’s 4th most kills with 43. Anderson also leads the Bears with 18 blocks. Huizenga and freshman middle blocker Bella Bergmark also have double digits blocks with 13 and 11, respectively.

For the 2nd straight year, Golden Bears are running the 6-2 offense with two setters. Sophomore Isabel Potter and freshman Jade Blevins have pretty much equal work thus far with 102 and 115 assists, respectively. Potter also leads the Bears with 10 serving aces with Mima Mirkovic just one behind at 9 aces.

Against much weaker competition than the Pac-12, Golden Bears have looked quite competent for the most part. There are no glaring bad part of the rotation where the team is prone to drop 3-4 points. Both Potter and Blevins look solid in running the Cal offense, although it does not appear that the Bears give too many decoy looks in parts of 3 matches that I have watched on the season. In a few of these matches, the defense offered zero blocking against the Bears, so we will have to see how the Cal offense will play against better teams. Nonetheless, there are certainly reasons to be optimistic that the Golden Bears have turned the corner and had started a slow ascend back to being perennial NCAA postseason participants.

In the Cal Molten Classic, Bears had a close opening set against Chicago State where they won 25-23, then they took the next 8 sets with ease.

On the road in South Dakota, Bears had a tougher time against Northern Colorado. After dropping their first set of the season at 25-27 in set 2, Bears bounced back to take the next two sets.

Against host South Dakota, it was a close match with every set decided by the minimum 2 points of 25-23. Bears won the first set, but played tightly at the close of the 2nd one. In sets 2 thru 4, Bears drop the last two points of the set after it was 23-23. The young Cal team certainly needed to learn to play better in crunch time on the road.

After their first loss of the year, Cal Volleyball closed the South Dakota trip with an easy straight set win over Northeastern.

This weekend, the Golden Bears travel to the Portland State Tournament where they will take on 0-5 Gonzaga (today at 12:30 pm PT), host 1-5 Portland State (tonight at 7:30 pm PT), and 6-1 Fresno State (Saturday, 10 am PT). Live stream of the matches are available via this link.

Cal Men’s Water Polo (5-0)

One weekend and one midweek match down, No.3 Cal Men’s Water Polo is undefeated as expected. Golden Bears defeated Air Force 16-5, Concordia 19-3, UC Irvine 15-12, UC Santa Barbara 12-9, and UC Davis 13-10.

Bears will face a solid 5th ranked Pacific Tigers squad on Saturday from Stockton at 7 pm PT.

With the graduation of Luca Cupido, Golden Bears had to have different younger Bears step up in new roles. In these early season matches, senior prolific scorer Johnny Hooper is also away as he plays with Team USA. Against UC Davis senior Odysseas Masmanidis (team leading scorer with 12 goals on the year in the first 4 matches) was also sidelined with an injury. Still, the Golden Bears are undefeated.

Brazilian junior Bernado Carelli has taken over the starting goalkeeper job from the graduated Kevin Le Vine. Carelli was the backup two years ago behind Lazar Andric. So far, Carelli has made 45 saves in 12 quarters played.

Bears will again play without Hooper at No.5 Pacific, where the Bears are expected to win regardless. There are a month plus to go before the first opportunity of the Bears playing UCLA/USC/Stanford in this season where all of the top teams have graduated key players.

Cal Men’s Soccer (3-1)

Bouncing back from a tough 2-1 OT loss at No.17 Pacific, Cal Bears took care of business against Sacramento State from Avaya Stadium AKA home of the San Jose Earthquake on Thursday night. Returning top scorer Senior Shinya Kadono scored 4 goals in this one.

We are 4 more matches before the start of the Pac-12 season for Cal Men’s Soccer. Bears will host UC Riverside on Sunday before hosting Delaware and UMass-Lowell next weekend. Bears conclude the non-conference season at Santa Clara.

So far, the Bears have won both home matches by one goals each, lost the lone road match in OT, and routed Sac State in neutral field. Bears are also considered a 15th-25th ranked team in the country.

Kadono leads the Bears with 5 goals and 2 assists. Fellow senior Sam Ebstein is 2nd on the team with 2 goals. Junior keeper Drake Callender, named to the preseason Hermann Trophy (soccer’s Heisman) watchlist, has been solid between the pipes.

With 3 home matches coming up, our Rick Chen will have more coverage of those Cal Men’s Soccer action.

Cal Women’s Soccer (3-2)

With plenty of youth in the backline and at the keeper, Cal Women’s Soccer has been struggling a bit since defender sophomore captain Emily Smith was injured. Golden Bears lost in OT to UC Santa Barbara in their most recent match. Their other lost comes from a road match at No.19 Santa Clara.

Golden Bears will visit No.21 Oklahoma State and Oklahoma this weekend.

Leading the Bears offensively are Abi Kim (3 goals, 1 assist) and Thai national team member Miranda Nild (1 goal in limited action since she was away for the Asian Games). So far, 7 different Bears have found the back of the net as a part of a balanced attack.

Redshirt freshman Olivia Sekany is the new keeper for the Bears. She has already registered two clean sheets on the year.

Bears conceded 4 goals last weekend in two matches; that is certainly too many. As prolific as the Cal offense can be, I am concerned about the Cal defense (particularly with the way that it broke down against Santa Clara, even with Emily Smith). We shall see how much the Bears can improve as more matches in the near future will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Networks.

After this Oklahoma trip, Bears will host UC Davis next weekend before Pac-12 play starts in two weeks.

Cal Field Hockey (2-1)

Besides an expected 5-0 loss to No.4 Maryland (who were also the national runner-up last year), Cal Field Hockey have been playing quite well in 2018 on both sides of the ball.

Bears won their latest match via an 1-0 result over Miami (Ohio). Junior goalkeeper Danielle Mentink made 5 saves for the clean sheet and won America East Defensive Player of the Week Honor.

Offensively, Bears got the lone goal from sophomore Megan Rodgers. Rodgers opened the year with a hat trick against Providence. With 21 goals already on her career, Rodgers is on the verge of cracking the top 10 list for Cal all-time in just her sophomore year. Senior Melina Moore has 25 career goal which is just one short of 10th place (shared by current Cal head coach Shellie Onstead and Melissa Nerone).

It will be a very challenging weekend for the Golden Bears from Louisville, Kentucky this weekend as they face No.2 North Carolina (Saturday at 12 pm PT) and host No.11 Louisville (Sunday at 11 am PT). The key will be for the Bears to not concede too many penalty corners to these experienced squads, which was their downfall against Maryland. Bears have got nothing to lose and thus could be quite dangerous.

Cal Cross Country

Several Cal Bears opened the season last weekend at the USF Invitational, choosing to use a lineup of mostly freshmen for both sexes.

Cal men took 1st place thanks to the first collegiate career victory for senior (listed as a graduate student, actually) Garrett Corcoran. Corcoran earned USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week honor for his win.

Cal women went without the top runners in Bethan Knights and Brie Oakley, but still took 3rd place.