BERKELEY – Cal outside hitter Michelle Neumayr admitted to having some nerves before the first practice of the 2013 season Saturday.
No, Neumayr is not an incoming freshman getting her first taste of college volleyball. On the contrary, she is about to enter her third year of college and is one of the Bears’ captains this season.
But Neumayr has still yet to play in a college match. One of the country’s most highly recruited players coming out of Burlingame High School in 2011, Neumayr suffered season-ending knee injuries in each of the last two years to remain on the sidelines.
After an intense rehab program, Neumayr is as physically fit as she’s ever been since she arrived in Berkeley and is optimistic about the upcoming season.
“It felt great to finally be back out there,” Neumayr said. “At first, there were some jitters. I was nervous and excited. But once I started playing, it was a lot of fun.”
The Bears were on the court early Saturday morning and had another practice scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Cal will have double-day practices through next week. The Bears open the season with the Cal Molten Classic at Haas Pavilion Aug. 30-31.
“It was good to see everyone out there,” Cal coach Rich Feller said. “There was lots of enthusiasm as you would expect. The players are all responding well. The new kids seem to be fitting in really well and getting used to things. The returning players are setting a good example with the tempo and communication level. I’m pretty happy with what we were trying to do today.”
Neumayr injured her knee for the second time during open gym workouts one week before camp began last season. She was cleared to return to the court just in time for open gym action last month, but Saturday marked her official return to the Bears.
“Double-days have been the big thing I’ve been looking forward to,” Neumayr said. “It was nice to finally be here. Now I just get to put all the work in for the next few weeks.”
The Bears have six new players on their roster, including a freshmen class that ranks No. 21 in the country by Prepvolleyball.com. Middle blocker Jenelle Jordan, setter Alyssa Jensen and libero Maddy Kerr were all “Fab 50” selections by Volleyball Magazine.
Cal also returns three starters – setter Joan Caloiaro along with outside hitters Adrienne Gehan and Christina Higgins – as well as libero Mary McKennon. Sophomore Lara Vukasovic also started 14 matches last season.
“I think everyone was really anxious to get out here,” Feller said. “The freshmen were very, very excited and probably a little nervous. All in all, they were very anxious to get started.”