With almost a full slate of Cal fall sports action last weekend, there are a lot of results (and still way-too-early impressions) to get to in this week’s post. I will also have a quick preview of Cal Men’s Water Polo, one of the few Cal programs that are truly perennial national championship threat, who will open their season today.
First, here is the Cal home schedule for this week:
After two matches down in Santa Barbara and San Diego last weekend, Cal Women’s Soccer (3-0) is back with two home matches this weekend. Cal Field Hockey (1-1) will host No.7 Michigan (whose ranking will probably drop after loss at Stanford) on Sunday.
On the road, Cal Volleyball (3-0) are at a weekend tournament at Irvine. Cal Men’s Water Polo (0-0) will open the season from San Diego. Cal Men’s Soccer (1-0-1) is in Santa Barbara.
Cal Volleyball off to a great start in the new Sam Crosson era
I knew Savannah Rennie was going to play a huge role in the turning around of the Cal Volleyball program. Sure, that belief came from 6 years ago when Rennie, one of the top volleyball prospect in the country, had committed to Cal. Since then, it has been well documented both here and elsewhere, Rennie suffered a mysterious illness after becoming a Cal early enrollee and found out that she needed a liver transplant. After the long and arduous journey to get a new liver, Rennie also suffered another rare disease in the form of non-Hodgkins post-transplant lymphoma.
After all that, Savannah Rennie is finally healthy and is the X-Factor for this year’s Cal Volleyball squad that is seeking a long overdue return to the NCAA postseason. If this first weekend is any indication, Rennie is much more than just an inspirational story; she could be that all important 2nd/3rd scoring option for a potentially top-25 caliber squad that is Cal Volleyball in 2019. At the (Colorado State) Rams Volleyball Classic last weekend, Playing both the middle blocker and occasionally outside hitter, Savannah Rennie was named the MVP of the tournament after recording 25 kills with a hitting percentage of 0.503, along with garnering 8 blocks in three matches.
Cal 3, Oklahoma 0 (25-11, 25-20, 28-26)
A balanced attack opened the new era of Cal Volleyball under new head coach Sam Crosson. Maddie Haynes had 10 kills while Rennied added 9. Returning to a rotation scheme that uses just 1 setter, junior Isabel Potter ran the show and registered 32 assists. Mima Mirkovic only got 6 kills in this one but recorded 12 digs.
Golden Bears jumped out to big leads in the first two sets, but were also able to fend off the Sooners in a tight 3rd set.
Cal 3, Colorado State 1 (25-19, 23-25, 25-19, 25-10)
Host Colorado State has been to the postseason for 24 straight years and have the same ambition in 2019, yet Cal had little issue with them early. Bears again jumped out to a quick start, but did allow the Rams to get closer in set 1. In set 2, Bears’ big start was completely erased and eventually a few close plays/calls that did not go Cal’s way allowed the Rams to tie the match. Nonetheless, the much more cohesive Cal squad was decidedly superior than Colorado State in out-of-the-system plays and out hit CSU .291-.123. Bears looked quite impressive in winning this tough match on the road.
Mirkovic had 20 kills and 18 digs to lead the way for the Bears. Rennie had 5 blocks to go with 6 kills. Potter had 21 assists but Jade Blevins also saw some floor time, playing the entire 4th set, to record 18 assists. The two setters both played last year when the Bears ran the 6-2.
Cal 3, Chicago State 1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-13, 25-7)
With a quick turnaround, Cal was flat in the first set and could not rally for the win. Bears did rebound to take the next 3 sets. For the match Cal out hit Chicago State 0.458 to 0.134.
Senior opposite Bailee Huizinga led the way for the Bears with 13 kills. Rennie and fellow middle Preslie Anderson added 12 kills apiece. Blevins (16 assists) played the first set but Potter (34 assists) played the next 3.
For the first weekend of the season, Cal Bears looked quite good. However, Bears also have the advantage of returning just about everyone from last year’s team. Cal will face North Carolina, UNLV, and UC Irvine this weekends in 3 more big tests. The action this weekend will all be streamed by UC Irvine on Big West.TV.
In the latest AVCA coaches’ poll, Bears received enough votes to be the 29th ranked team in the country.
Both Women’s and Men’s Cross Country won the USF Invitational
Also having a brand new head coach, as a part of the Cal Track and Field coaching staff overhaul after the hiring of Robyne Johnson as the new Director, is Cal Cross Country. Golden Bears started the new Bobbly Lockhart (although his hire was quite recent that he might not have much effect yet) era with wins by both the men and the women at the USF Invitational to make Golden Gate Park a Bear Territory.
For the Cal women, 4 runners finished in the top 10 with newcomer Cassy Haskell leading the way with a 4th overall finish. On the men’s side, Cal repeats as the USF Invitational champs with Ben Harper taking 4th overall.
Quick impressions of Cal Soccer, Field Hockey
Cal Women’s Soccer (3-0) earns two road wins in SoCal with two more clean sheets
Cal 2, UCSB 0
Denae Antoine and Emma Westin both scored their 2nd goals of the year. Freshman goalkeeper Angelina Anderson played the full 90 minutes but did not have to make a save.
Cal 2, SDSU 0
Paige Metayer scored her 2nd goal of the season. Emma Westin scored her 3rd. Anderson had to make just one save for another clean sheet.
These two results combine with the opening 5-0 win over Weber State (Anderson played the first half while last year’s starter Olivia Sekany played the 2nd half) means that Cal Women’s Soccer has yet to concede a goal in 2019. All 4 goals scored this past weekend were assisted, which is great to see.
So far, Cal looks like a good bet to return to the NCAA postseason after an one year absence. Bears host San Diego and Montana from Edwards Stadium today and Sunday.
Cal Men’s Soccer (1-0-1) still seeking consistent scoring
Cal 1, Omaha 0
Cal keeper Drake Callender had to make a penalty save in the 2nd half to preserve this win. Freshman Paolo Carrillo-Weisenburger scored his first collegiate goal for the final margin.
Cal 1, UC Irvine 1
Against the No.25 Anteaters, Cal started Noah Texter at goal. Texter was solid except for one clearing mistake that turned into a UC Irvine goal early in the 2nd half. Golden Bears were able to equalize on Tommy Williamson goal. Bears outshot the Anteaters 25-14 but can only find the back of the net once.
Callender is selected to the USMNT U-23 training camp which may mean some game missed for him. With Texter being an accomplished keeper as well, Bears should be okay. The question about who will score this year for the Bears is not yet answered, but it was good for the Bears to dominate chances in their first two matches; hopefully, someone will develop that killer instinct soon.
Bears have just one match this weekend with a visit to UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.
Cal Field Hockey (1-1) already has a tough schedule, after season opener.
Cal 5, Quinnipiac 1
4 different Cal Bears scored a goal in this match and none of them is goal scorer extraordinaire Megan Rodgers (team high 9 shots, 6 on goal, 1 assist). Junior Natalie Dalton played all 60 minutes at goal in this one. It was a great home opener.
It would appear that all the Cal Field Hockey home matches this year are not only streamed but will also have commentary, which is a great addition for a sport that a lot of Cal fans may not be so familiar with...yet.
Cal 0, Northwestern 3
15th ranked Northwestern dominated the chances in this one. Despite making 8 saves, Dalton allowed 3 goals. Bears only managed 5 shots, 3 on goal, all game long. Bears had to play this match from Stanford.
Unfortunately, Bears face another ranked opponent in No.7 Michigan.
Cal Men’s Water Polo season preview
Despite a MPSF tournament semifinal win, Cal did not get either of the two at-large bid to the NCAA tournament last year. The culprit was probably that historically bad early season loss to Harvard.
Ranked 4th to open the 2019 season, Golden Bears will again seek one of the coveted 3 spots out of the MPSF conference back into the NCAA tournament. Bears would need to do this despite the graduation of scoring machine Johnny Hooper (who had a great summer with Team USA and should be a Calympian next year) along with Odysseas Masmanidis and Vassilis Tzavaras.
Head coach Kirk Everist hinted at a possible change in goal this year with talented freshman Adrien Weinberg pushing incumbent in Bernardo Carelli, but that should be a good problem to have.
With 9 new players (freshmen and transfers), Cal should have more depth than usual. Bears can afford to have a deeper rotation than usual. I expect these early season pre-conference matches to be an experiment to find combinations that work - particularly to find scoring. I think the loss to Harvard last year was mostly due to fatigue. Having more depth this year will hopefully prevent that, and the Golden Bears will then hope to bump one of UCLA, USC, and Stanford off the top 3.
Senior Safak Simsek should be the top scorer this year. The Turkish national scored some key goals in Cal’s national championship run in 2016. Serbian transfer Jasmin Klasinac should also be providing some goals after a prolific two years in Wagner College where he scored 89 and 114 goals.
In short, Cal Men’s Water Polo is reloaded and ready to go. Bears may have fresh faces in the most prominent spots (scoring and in the cage) this year, but they should again be a competitor for another NCAA national championship.
Cal will host the MPSF Tournament this year. The NCAA Championship this year will take place in Stockton, CA - home of Pacific.