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Season previews of Cal Beach Volleyball, Lacrosse, M&W Rowing

It’s my last batch of season previews for the 2019-20 school year.

COLLEGE BEACH VOLLEYBALL: APR 07 California at Arizona

In case you are not aware, I am also making the move over to Write For California with my fellow sleuth (that’s the term for a group of bears) of California Golden Blogs writers. You will find our Men’s Swimming at Pac-12 Championship coverage there. Nonetheless, for completeness, here is my final batch (some of it was written a couple of weeks ago) of season previews for the remaining Cal Olympic sports for the 2019-2020 school years.

Cal Beach Volleyball (5-1) — Bears seek to break into top 10 in the country

2019 season: 22-9, finish the season ranked 11th in the country

Golden Bears retain that 11th in the country ranking to start the 2020 season. Cal will look to improve upon the solid record of 8 wins over top-25 ranked opponents in 2019 and hope to make their first NCAA Championship this spring. In the past, only 8 teams make that NCAA Championship with the top 3 from the East and top 3 from the West plus two at-large teams. In other words, Cal would likely need to be ranked in the top 8, a feat that the Bears may have been able to achieve in 2019 had two five set losses went the other way, to make their first NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship (again being hosted in Alabama). All the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championships have gone to either USC or UCLA in its very short history.

Things will be slightly different on the sideline this year as Cal Beach Volleyball Head Coach Meagan Owusu will be taking a maternity leave. Meagan Owusu (Schmitt during her Cal playing days) is married to Cal Football alum Ernest Owusu. Congratulations to the two Cal alumni on the major addition (they are apparently expecting triplet!!!) to their family this spring!

Derek Olson, who has been with the program for several seasons, will be the acting head coach in the meantime. Olson revealed the new expected lineup to who has Cal as their 12th best team of the preseason.

[Iya] Lindahl, who finished ninth at this year’s AVP Manhattan Beach Open, is expected to team with Mirkovic at No. 1, and Olsen is excited about the prospects of Jordan Polo (a sophomore from Danville, California) and Caroline Schafer (a junior from Orinda, California) at No. 2, Maddie Micheletti (a junior from Manhattan Beach) and potentially freshman Ainsley Radell (Moraga, California) at 3, Alexia Inman (a junior from Manhattan Beach) and Madison Dueck (a senior from Santa Cruz) back on 4, and a number of players who could see time as the No. 5 pair.

This is a different lineup across the board than the one that closed out the 2019 season, despite returning a lot of the same players. Mima Mirkovic paired with Caroline Schafer as the top pair. Jordan Polo teamed with Maddie Micheletti at 2nd. Iya Lindahl paired with the since graduated Grace Campbell at 3rd. Alexia Inman paired with the since graduated Mia Merino at 4th. Madison Dueck paired with another graduated senior in Abby Waldburger at 5th.

Bears split the two matches on their opening Saturday. Falling 1-4 to No.14 Grand Canyon while beating host St. Mary’s College 5-0.

Against Grand Canyon, only the No.4 pair won (in straight sets). Bears were able to push the match ups at No.1 and No.5 to a decisive 3rd set, but faltered there.

In the win over SMC, Cal won in straight sets across the board.

In other news, Cal Beach Volleyball was supposed to have an upgraded facility for this year, but that work (announced in 2018) apparently never quite got started in 2019 as planned. The $5 million upgrade to the Clark Kerr facility was objected by local Berkeley residents who overestimated the appeal of the sport (they don’t want 400+ spectators to show up when the more realistic scenario is around 50 spectators at most).

We shall see if/when Cal will be able to update the facility for the newest of the 30 sponsored sport so that the team can have normal stuff like a locker room and running water by their training/playing ground. Until then, Cal Beach Volleyball will attempt to continue its steady ascend into being a national powerhouse.

In their first home meet of the season, Cal Beach Volleyball went a perfect 4-0, all by 5-0 sweep in the Bay Area Classic. Cal defeated Utah, UC Davis, No.19 Arizona State, and Pacific in going 20-0, with all except one match going to a deciding 3rd set. A slight change from the opening weekend is that Dueck/Inman has been elevated to the No.3 pair while Radell/Micheletti played as the No.4 pair.

Dueck and Inman were named the Pac-12 Pair of the Week.

Bears will next visit LA this weekend for the Pac-12 South Tournament when they will face off against Washington, Oregon, Arizona State, and USC.

Cal Lacrosse (2-3) — rebuilding Bears seek first winning season since 2013

2019 results: 7-12, 3-7 in Pac-12 play

After opening the season with a 9-6 road loss at UC Davis and a home 17-7 loss to No.8 Virginia Cavaliers, Cal Lacrosse bounced back with a pair of wins on the East Coast against Mercer and Winthrop (neither schools in the South are really Lacrosse powerhouses). Bears then dropped a 16-11 decision at San Diego State to wrap their non-conference schedule (save for two more midseason matches outside the Pac-12).

Bears graduate their top 3 offensive players from last year in Kirsten Swanson (42 goals, 13 assists), Caroline Corzel (34 goals, 6 assists), and Eliza Christmas (32 goals, 5 assists) - the three combined for 57% of all the Cal goals scored last year. Defensively, 4-year starting goalkeeper Jenny Wilkens has also graduated.

In other words, 2020 is a rebuilding year for the program.

So far on the year, Bears have a relatively balanced attack with 5 players scoring 7 or more goals already. Out of this group of Nikki Zaccaro, Quinnlyn Mason, Marisa Kuberra, Susie Ropp, and Megan Mix, only Ropp is a senior.

Senior Makayla Ward has played every minute of goalkeeper for the Bears so far. Her 50 saves so far is just one short of what she got in her first three seasons with Cal Lacrosse.

This is head coach Brooke Eubanks’ 6th season as the Cal head coach. The Cal team has steadily improved their win total every year. The goal is to beat the 7 wins from last year, but hopefully the Bears can be even better and finally have a winning record.

Cal Men’s Rowing - out to prove that 2019 (4th), 2018 (3rd), 2017 (5th) were just flukes

Cal men’s rowing last won the national championship in the 2016 season. Men’s rowing is governed by the IRA rather than the NCAA - allowing this oldest intercollegiate sports to give the most meaningful trophy to the boat that won the V8+ race rather than the school with the highest team score (there is a separate trophy for that). Had NCAA have their way, the “national champion” title will go to the school with the highest total points out of 3-4 races, like the case for women’s rowing.

Since the racing season in 2020 has yet to start, we only have an idea of head coach Scott Frandsen’s Varsity 8+ boat lineup from the fall’s Head of the Charles Regatta when the Golden Bears finished 5th overall, 2nd among college teams behind two-time reigning IRA champions in Yale. Bears were faster than Harvard (7th) and Washington (9th) - both of whom finished ahead of Cal in last year’s IRA championship grand final.

From the recap of the Head of Charles Regatta:

Cal’s varsity eight Sunday featured three rowers who won the IRA national championship in the second varsity eight last season – senior Will Creedon, junior George Finlayson and sophomore Olav Molenaar. They were joined by two returners from last year’s top boat – junior Ollie Maclean and Matthew Mesman. Senior Brett Vilk sat in the stroke seat while junior Jack Roberston [sic] was on the bow. Freshman Angus Dawson, who helped Australia capture the gold medal in the coxed four at the Under-23 World Championships over the summer, rounded out the boat.

With only 2 guys from last year’s Varsity 8 boat, this is a pretty big turnover. Of course, the Bears did win the national championship with their 2nd Varsity 8 boat last year and will import 3 guys from that boat, with their championship experiences. Vilk will make the jump from the 3rd Varsity 8 boat last year while Robertson rowed with the 2nd Varsity 8 boat in 2018 before missing the 2019 season. It is an interesting move to have a freshman coxswain but I’m sure that this group has got a ton more experiences by now since this one race from last fall.

Given that they have won the V8+ race for the past two seasons as well as finishing ahead of Cal at the Head of Charles, Yale is probably the favorites going into this spring season. Coached by former Cal head coach Steve Gladstone, Yale came out of nowhere to win their first IRA national title in history in 2018 and followed it up with another title in 2019. Washington has traditionally been Cal’s biggest competition at the IRA championships, and they should be in the mix yet again.

Bears swept their races in the spring opening weekend last week. Two freshmen were promoted to the 2nd Varsity 8 boat as head coach Scott Frandsen will likely tinker with his lineup in the coming month. The Bears’ next race won’t be until the San Diego Classics in April.

The IRA National Championship will again take places form Lake Mercer, NJ in the last weekend of May (May 29th-31st).

Cal Women’s Rowing - looking to bounce back from a 6th place finish in 2019

Three races matters for the NCAA (Women’s) Rowing Championship - Varsity 8 (V8+), 2nd Varsity 8 (2V8+), and Varsity 4 (V4+). Like the Cal men, the Cal women only had one fall race on the season thus far.

At the Head of the American Regatta from Sacramento (Lake Natoma), Cal V8+ boat won their race. The V8+ lineup for this season should consists of Elisa Forbes (coxswain), Lindsay Noah, Issy Cassidy, Chloe Betts, Annabel Oertel, Sophie Balson, Immy Purcell, Isabella Marshall and Jackie Hendriks. Because there was no other eight races, 2V8+ finished 5th overall in the same race. In the quad race, Cal has two teams finishing 4th and 9th overall.

After always finishing in the top 3, Cal had an uncharacteristic 6th place finish in 2019 when not all 3 boats made their respective grand finals. V8+ finished 5th in the grand final. 2V8+ won the petit final for 7th place. V4+ finished. last in the grand final for 6th place. For the first time ever in NCAA history, a school (turned out to be Cal’s main rival in the Washington Huskies) swept all three races.

Based on that performance which showed both dominance and depth, Washington will easily be the favorites coming into the 2020 season.

The Women’s Rowing’s spring season will start with the Pac-12 Invite in the end of March.

The NCAA National Championships this year will take place from Oak Ridge, TN in the last weekend of May (May 29th-31st).

Again, you can find my continuing coverage of the Cal Olympic sports (can Cal get at least 3 team national championships to get to that nice round 100 number?) and hopefully the 2020 Tokyo Games over at Write For California. Bookmarking the new webpage (and maybe updating your homepage) is just a couple clicks away!