Going undefeated in non-conference play sometimes does not mean all that much, particularly for certain Olympic sports with only few great teams, but it is nonetheless great achievements for Cal Volleyball and Cal Women’s Soccer in their 2019 seasons thus far, particular with both programs missing out on the NCAA postseason last year. What is rather bizarre, instead, is how Cal Men’s Water Polo is NOT undefeated.
With both Cal Field Hockey and Men’s Soccer actually opening conference play against Stanford later today, I will have a separate post about them.
Bear Sightings in Berkeley ️ pic.twitter.com/SLzZEjP8sf— Cal Athletics (@CalAthletics) September 16, 2019
No.23 Cal Volleyball (9-0) has one more non-conference match ahead of Pac-12 opening Big Spike next week
Cal Bears stay undefeated under new head coach Sam Crosson after an impressive straight set win over St. Mary’s in the Bears’ home opener on Thursday night. Bears will play one more match this Saturday, a short away one at St. Mary’s, to wrap their non-conference schedule. Then, No.1 Stanford (who are currently ranked No.2 but has already got a tough road win over Nebraska) will visit Berkeley next Thursday in the Pac-12 opener for both squads.
Building off the success of the 2018 season, where the Bears missed the postseason for the 5th straight year but did manage to record 7 wins in Pac-12 play, Cal has looked even more improved in the 2019 season thus far, particularly in closing out matches. Although the Bears have not played that tough of a schedule in non-conference (this is true especially when compare to Stanford that has play the top B1G teams in Penn State, Minnesota, and Nebraska on the road), 8 of the 9 wins have come on the road (5 games were technically at neutral sites).
Bears have been able to establish a much more balanced attack thus far, with outside hitter Maddie Haynes (3.19 kills/set), opposite Bailee Huizenga (2.29 kills/set), and outside hitter/middle blocker Savannah Rennie (2.83 kills/set) earning more kills this season to join outside hitter Mima Mirkovic (3.82 kills/set) and middle blocker Preslie Anderson (2.95 kills/set). As the main setter, Isabel Potter has run the offense decently and perhaps more consistently than last year when she had to rotate out to cede a third of the playing time to Jade Blevins. More importantly, Bears have avoided rotation spots where they would consistently give up 2-3 points before sideout, which were killers in close matches the last couple of years.
Another strength of the Bears have been the serve. Bears have 51 service aces on the season so far. Although the Bears also give up points with their 50 service errors, the tough serving is often able to take the opponents out of their offensive rhythm.
On the back row, libero Emma Smith lead the way for the Bears defensively. Head coach Sam Crosson has talked about challenging the Bears to be even more scrappy in digging up balls. Mirkovic and Huizenga are 2nd and 3rd on the team in digs behind Smith.
Cal 3, Buffalo 0 - 25-18, 25-7, 27-25
From North Dakota, Bears won the first match of two on the day against Buffalo (2-5) last weekend. It was a balanced attack with 5 Bears hitting better than 0.400 for a relatively win.
Cal 3, North Dakota State 1 - 25-27, 25-17, 25-22, 25-16
Bears experienced a real road experience in this one and it did faze them a bit in dropping the first set to North Dakota State (3-4). However, after building a quick lead in the 2nd set, the Bears never look back. Mikrovic had 15 kills to lead the way. Haynes added 11 kills. Anderson (9), Rennie (8), Huizenga (7), and Laurent Forte (6) added to the balanced attack.
Cal 3, SMC 0 - 25-21, 25-21, 25-14
Crosson earns his first home victory as the head coach of Cal Volleyball. Preslie Anderson has 11 kills while Mima Mirkovic and Maddie Haynes contributed 10 kills each. Bears were able to hold the Gaels to 0.074 hitting percentage.
Bears will look to maintain their perfect record while on the road at SMC on Saturday. Then, the gauntlet that is Pac-12 conference will begin next week. We shall know soon enough if the Bears are merely the 20th-25th ranked team in the country or if they can be as good as the 10th-15th best squad.
.@CalVolleyball is one of just 10 undefeated teams remaining in the country. @UtahVolleyball leads the nation in blocks.#Pac12VB rounds out its non-conference run with six teams ranked in the @AVCAVolleyball top-25.— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) September 16, 2019
Read here: https://t.co/3MGdrta6qU#BackThePac pic.twitter.com/pY3Lm6MjbW
Looking a bit ahead with a lot of optimism, Bears may not be at the level of Stanford or Washington, but a top 4 finish in the conference may be enough for Cal to host NCAA postseason first and second round.
Emily Smith and Angelina Anderson named Pac-12 defensive and goalkeeper of the Week for the undefeated No.21 Cal Women’s Soccer (7-0-0)
Cal’s bid for the 7th clean sheet to start the year may have been stopped by a tough visiting Santa Clara side last weekend, but the Bears prevailed with a win anyhow.
Similar to Cal Football’s success this school year thus far, Cal Women’s Soccer has also played defense at an elite level to compensate for a good but not great offense. Bears’ defense has been so good that freshman keeper Angelina Anderson has barely had to make any save on the young season.
Thanks to that big win (Santa Clara has beat a top-3 ranked UCLA team this year), two Cal Bears earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honor this week. It was a repeat award for Cal junior defender Emily Smith while Cal freshman goalkeeper Angelina Anderson claimed her very first Pac-12 Player of the Week honor.
Cal 1, UC Irvine 0
Emma Westin scored her 6th goal in Cal’s 6th match for the lone score. Cal keeper Angelina Anderson made 3 saves for the Bears’ 6th straight clean sheet to open the year.
Cal 2, Santa Clara 1
Emma Westin earned her 7th goal in the Bears’ 7th match of the season. After Santa Clara equalizes on a set play (Izzy D’Aquila on her 8th of the year), Westin was able to set up the game winner for Natalie Hueston in the 79th minute.
Seven goals in seven games this season AND assisting Sunday's game-winner vs Santa Clara?— Cal Women's Soccer (@CalWSoc) September 17, 2019
No slowing this Swede! ⚽️
Congrats to Emma Westin on being named to the @TopDrawerSoccer Team of the Week! pic.twitter.com/ziOZkSlqIV
Somewhat similar to Cal Volleyball, Cal Women’s Soccer also faced a good but not necessarily great non-conference schedule. Bears will conclude the non-conference with two more home matches (UC Riverside today and Portland on Sunday) before a visit to No.5 UCLA next Friday to open Pac-12 play.
Pac-12 women's soccer enters its final week of non-conference play with five teams in the @UnitedCoaches top-25 and the highest non-conference winning percentage in the country (.810).— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) September 17, 2019
Read here: https://t.co/9QRFahAeLH#Pac12Soccer | #BackThePac pic.twitter.com/tb1Udsvc0U
Pac-12 with 3 teams in the top 5 of the country will be challenging, but what is perhaps more important for the Bears to avoid any bad losses to the lesser teams in the Pac. We shall find out just how elite the Cal defense is this season.
No.8 Cal Men’s Water Polo has an unusually tough start to season
It is unusual to see such a high number next to the ranking of Cal Men’s Water Polo (3-3). There are plenty of growing pains for the 2019 team as they adjust to the first season in awhile without a USA Water Polo team star or Pete Cutino Award winner/finalist like a Luca Cupido or Johnny Hooper.
After a 3-1 opening weekend, Bears suffered two close losses at home to No.11 UC Davis and No.6 Pacific this past weekend.
Cal 13, UC Davis 16 (OT)
Bears might have thought that they got this match, but the Aggies scored two goals in the last 25 seconds to equalize. UC Davis used that momentum to outscore the Bears 4-1 in OT for the final margin. It’s a tough lesson for this young Cal team about closing out matches.
Simsek’s 3 goals lead 8 Bears who got on the scoreboard. Freshman keeper Adrian Weinberg made 17 saves.
Cal 12, Pacific 14
Bears trailed most of this one before tying things up with 4 minutes to go. Pacific scored the two final goals to pull off the upset, however. 5th year senior captain Jordan Hoover scored 3 goals and Weinberg made 16 saves, but it was not enough.
With plenty of work to do, Cal Men’s Water Polo will visit UC Davis for the Aggies Roundup this weekend. Bears will face Cal Baptist, San Jose State, UC Davis, and Santa Clara. Next weekend’s SoCal Invitational will be a great opportunity for the Bears to improve on their rankings with a match against UCLA and another potential match against a Stanford/USC.
Mina Anglero wins Stump Invitational to lead Cal Cross Country
Redshirt sophomore Mina Anglero from Norway won the Stump Invitational, hosted by UC Davis, last weekend to lead Cal Cross Country. Cal women took 2nd while the Cal men took 3rd at this event.
Marea Zlatunich and Annie Boos finished 4th and 6th for the Cal women. On the men’s side, Colin Fitzgerald’s 7th place finish was the best result for the Bears.
The next race for Cal Cross Country is the Capital Cross Challenge in Sacramento on September 28th.
And it is off to catch my flight to Memphis (and then drive to Oxford, Mississippi) for me. May our sturdy, Golden Bears football team also stay perfect in this 2019-20 school year through this weekend!