The end is near.
The end of year, decade (be on the look out for my best of decade picks next week), and CGB as we know it.
Nonetheless, let’s take another look at the highlights of this past fall. Since my normal weekly post is called “Golden Medals”, let’s hand out some virtual hardwares.
GOLD - Cal Men’s Soccer defeats No.1 Washington 3-2 in Seattle
Unfortunately, this match was not on the Pac-12 Network to give us a nice recap video. Nonetheless, when a Cal team takes down the No.1 team in the country in sensational fashion, it’s worth being recapped again here.
Washington Huskies twice went ahead by a goal, but the Bears would fight back. After Gio Miglietti scored in the 26th minute for the Huskies, Cal equalized in the 39th minute with a goal by Simon Lekressner (assists to Francisco Perez and Alonzo Del Mundo). Huskies did take a halftime lead with a goal by Blade Bodily in the 39th minute.
Cal’s leading scorer Tommy Williamson equalized in the 63rd minute (assist again by Francisco Perez). Bears went ahead for good in the 79th minute as Alonzo Del Mundo (assists to Christian Gomez and Simon Lekressner) scored the game winner.
It was a historical road win for the program over a No.1 ranked team in the country on the road. Noah Texter played the first half for the Bears while Drake Callender manned the net for the second half.
This win (and the next one) earned Cal a spot in the NCAA postseason for 2019.
SILVER - Cal Men’s Soccer defeats No.4 Stanford 1-0 at The Farm
November 2019 turned out to be quite a memorable time for the Cal Men’s Soccer program. Golden Bears had yet another big road win to close the regular season, upsetting rival Stanford.
Tommy Williamson earned a second-half penalty and made the conversion for the difference. Drake Callender made 3 saves for the clean sheet.
BRONZE - Cal Women’s Soccer defeats No.4 USC 3-0
Staying on the soccer pitch, Cal women’s soccer also had some memorable matches - beating both LA schools for the first time since 1996. The more fun of the two came at home against then 4th ranked USC Trojans.
It was a complete Cal effort. Luca Deza scored in the first half. Paige Metayer and Emma Westin scored in the second half. USC had a 16-10 edge in shots, but Cal freshman Angelina Anderson was up for the challenge.
Best Female Athlete
GOLD - Angelina Anderson - Cal Women’s Soccer
Emily Boyd just rewrote the Cal women’s soccer record book recently for a goalkeeper. Angelina Anderson may just do that also by the end of her career as a potential four year starter.
Anderson became the first Pac-12 freshman to earned the Goalkeeper of the Year honor for the conference. She is, understandably, also the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. More recently, Topdrawersoccer named her their National Freshman of the Year. She is also the national coaches’ pick for 2nd team All-American nationally.
Angelina Anderson made 86 saves while allowing 15 goals in 21 matches this year. Those 86 saves is already the 2nd most in a season in program history. She had 9 solo clean sheets (tied a Cal freshman record) and combined on another one.
The future is bright for Andreson, although one would hope that the Cal defense in front of her would get even better so she won’t face as many shots.
SILVER - Mima Mirkovic - Cal Volleyball
The junior standout is an important part of Cal Volleyball’s resurgent in the past couple of years. Despite only being 5 foot 10 inch tall (which is relatively short by Pac-12 volleyball standard), Mirkovic makes it up with her big play ability.
Also a standout beach volleyball player, Mirkovic is great all rotation outside hitter for the Bears thank to her defensive ability - regularly posting double digit kills to go with double digit digs.
Mirkovic leads the team with 325 kills, 3.28 kill per set. She is second on the team with 289 digs. Despite missing some time late, Mirkovic has 13 double-doubles.
Most importantly, with better play by her, Mirkovic is able to raise her hitting percentage. It has improved from 0.227 to 0.242.
There is no better evidence for Mima Mirkovic’s importance than how the Bears looked like a different team without her. Unfortunately, those 4 missing matches end up costing Cal a postseason berth.
BRONZE - Megan Rodgers - Cal Field Hockey
Another great Cal junior is Megan Rodgers, who continues to be the Bears’ top scorer for the 3rd straight year. After 17 and 13 goals in the past two years, Rodgers added another 13 goals to continue to move up within the top 10 list for goals in Cal Field Hockey program history.
43 goals through 3 seasons has Rodgers in 4th place. She should easily become 2nd by passing 45 goals (shared by Lara Kruggel and Nora Feddersen) to slot behind the great Valentina Godfrid, 2019 Cal Hall of Fame inductee, and her 93 all time goals.
2019 actually saw a slow start for Rodgers in scoring goals but she picked up the burden in the middle of the season to match her total from last year.
Best Male Athlete
GOLD - Drake Callender - Cal Men’s Soccer
Cal senior goalkeeper Drake Callender closed his solid Golden Bear career with another successful campaign (52 saves, 1.22 goal against average, 3 solo shutouts, part of 3 other combined shutouts), being a big part of the program’s return to the postseason this year. With a capable fellow senior keeper Noah Texter in the mix, Callender did miss a match and split parts of other matches - thus, he only earned a Third-Team honor in the region. Nonetheless, Callender should be an impact pro keeper to continue the long line of Cal goalkeepers finding success at the MLS and beyond.
Congratulations to @CallenderDrake, a 3-time @UnitedCoaches regional honoree with his All-Far West Third-Team berth! In 2019 the senior goalie tied a career high with 6 shutouts, claimed All-@pac12 2nd-Team status & became a @SnrCLASSAward finalist! #GoBears #EarnedIt ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/SQAMfZpwY1— Cal Men's Soccer (@CalMSoc) December 9, 2019
SILVER - Nikolaos Papanikolaou - Cal Men’s Water Polo
The Greek freshman is looking like the next Cal Men’s Water Polo great to come through the program. Despite a trying season for the team in general, Papanikolaou was everywhere on the boxscores for the Golden Bears in his first season.
Behind only senior Safak Simsek (who only lead by one more goal), “Papa” is second on the team with 51 goals to go with 10 assists. Papa also leads the team with 23 steals and 72 defense exclusions drawn. Understandably, despite an overall down year for the program, Papanikolaou is the conference (MPSF) Newcomer of the Year.
BRONZE - Simon Lekressner - Cal Men’s Soccer
It’s easy to overlook defender’s contribution, particularly since it does not show up in the boxscore, but all the postseason accolades have acknowledged the senior defender’s strong final campaign as a Golden Bear. Furthermore, with an invitation to the MLS College Showcase, Lekressner may be on the fast track to be another MLS Bear produced by Cal head coach Kevin Grimes.
Congrats to @LekressnerSimon, who earned another accolade when the senior defender was invited to the inaugural @MLS College Showcase starting Friday in Raleigh, N.C.! https://t.co/1xGgK6zF67 #GoBears— Cal Men's Soccer (@CalMSoc) December 12, 2019
For the season, Lekressner had a career best 5 goals where 2 were game winners. He was also named the Pac-12’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year for men’s soccer.
GOLD - Angelina Anderson - Cal Women’s Soccer
I already named her the top female athlete of the season. The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year is an obvious choice as the best newcomer here.
SILVER - Nikolaos Papanikolaou - Cal Men’s Water Polo
Another non-surprise choice. Papa is also the MPSF Newcomer of the Year.
By the way, Cal Men’s Water Polo also had several other impact newcomers who won some MPSF Newcomer of the Week awards this year - freshman keeper Adrian Weinberg and transfer Jasmin Kolasinac (team best 26 assists despite only playing 17 matches). Other freshmen like Garrett Dunn (13 goals, 13 assists) and Sam Untrecht (16 goals, 9 assists) also made impact. Golden Bears should bounce back next year (if the strong finish to the year did not convince you).
BRONZE - Mina Anglero - Cal Women’s Cross Country
Anglero raced in the track and field season last year, but this was her first cross country season. The Norway native was the top finisher for the Bears all season long and just missed out on an individual berth at the NCAA Championships by placing 22nd.
She’s the lone Golden Bear to be named to the USTFCCCA All-Region team.
Team of the Season
GOLD - Cal Volleyball
Golden Bears went 20-10, 10-10 in Pac-12 play under new head coach Sam Crosson. For the most part, Cal is again a top 25 caliber program in 2019 despite being snubbed by the NCAA selection committee.
Crosson was able to get a fantastic senior seasons out of several players (Maddie Haynes, Bailee Huizenga, Savannah Rennie) who will all be missed along with libero Emma Smith. However, Bears’ future should be bright with Mirkovic back and the fantastic middle blocking twosome of Preslie Anderson and Lauren Forte.
SILVER - Cal Women’s Soccer
Showing that the 2018 losing season was merely an aberration, Cal bounced back with a 13-5-3, 5-3-3 in Pac-12 campaign.
Golden Bears also managed to beat both UCLA and USC (both ranked in the top 10) this year and was very competitive in every match except the 4-0 loss to Stanford, who went on to win another national championship this year.
Besides having the top goalkeeper back next year, Bears will also return plenty of experienced midfielders and top scorer in Emma Westin. The quite good Cal defensive line, anchored by Emily Smith, will also mostly be back.
BRONZE - Cal Men’s Soccer
With those two exciting wins over top-5 Stanford and Washington on the road late, Cal Men’s Soccer both made the NCAA postseason and this list. Nonetheless, you would love to see more consistency from this squad that finished 8-7-3, 4-4-2 in Pac-12.
Bears will have to find a new keeper next year to replace Drake Callender, but you can count on head coach Kevin Grimes to keep on producing future soccer pros.