After the winter season seeing Reece Whitley earning Pac-12 Men’s Swimming Freshman of the Year honor and Milan Clausi being named Pac-12 Women’s Gymnastics Freshman of the Year, we have two more Pac-12 Freshman of the Year winners named in the past two weeks.
In both of the cases below, we have newcomers who quickly rose to be the top players on their squad. In sports where players are a team are essentially ranked by the head coach to compete, these two freshmen spent the majority of the season playing in the top pair/doubles or as the top individual.
Jordan Polo is Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Freshman of the Year
Coming off the best season in the short program history, Cal Beach Volleyball also earned their first Pac-12 individual award.
Showing just how bright the future will be for a program that has every intention to join USC and UCLA (both won the NCAA title twice now after the Bruins’ triumph this past weekend) as the next school to have hoisted the NCAA Beach Volleyball trophy, Cal freshman Jordan Polo is the Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Huge congratulations to @jordannpolo on being named the @pac12 beach volleyball Freshman of the Year! What a well-deserved honor! Jordan is Cal's first ever winner of this award. #CalbeachVBall #EarnIt pic.twitter.com/aJvNQfXcGD— Cal Beach Volleyball (@CalBeachVball) May 2, 2019
Polo spent the majority of the season playing with Cal sophomore Mima Mirkovic as the top pair for the Bears. A really late season partnership shuffle (possibly strategic to strengthen the depth of the No.2 and No.3 pairs) have Polo playing with Caroline Shafer in the year ending Pac-12 Tournament.
For her freshman campaign, Jordan Polo compiled a record of 17-10, including 15-9 as half of the No.1 pair. The Danville, California native showed steady improvements over the season and should be an asset on the team in the coming seasons.
Both of Polo’s main partners also earned Pac-12 honors as Mima Mirkovic was named to the Pac-12 First Team while Caroline Shafer and Polo are named to the Pac-12 Second Team.
Mirkovic also earned national All-American Honorable Mention honor, the first Cal Bear to garner All-American status.
Cal Beach Volleyball (22-9) just missed out on a spot in the 8 team NCAA tournament. Cal was the clear 3rd best team in the Pac behind UCLA (this year’s NCAA champ) and USC (this year’s NCAA runner-up). Bears finished the year with the No.10 ranking in the country, the best year ending ranking yet for the young program.
Yuta Kikuchi is Pac-12 Men’s Tennis Player of the Year
Coming from Japan, Yuta Kikuchi plays as in both the No.1 doubles and as the No.1 singles player for head coach Peter Wright’s Cal Men’s Tennis (16-12) team.
On a team with many talented sophomores, Kikuchi quickly become one of the more consistent player, even as a freshman. With some fancy track record (Kikuchi has played in both the Australian Open and US Open junior main draws), Kikuchi chose to come to Cal over turning pro.
For the season, Kikuchi thus far has a 20-14 singles record and a 16-15 doubles record partnering with sophomore Jacob Brumm.
Yuta Kikuchi is only the 3rd Pac-12 Freshman of the Year winner in Cal program history. The other Cal winners were Balazs Veress in 2001 and Campbell Johnson in 2013.
Of course, Cal Men’s Tennis season is far from over. As a team Cal Bears will battle No.2 seed Texas from Austin in the NCAA Super Regional (Round of 16) on Saturday.
After the team season is over, Kikuchi will also compete individually for the NCAA singles championship (field of 64) and with sophomore Jacob Brumm for the NCAA doubles championship (field of 32) from Orlando, FL.