vs. SIU-Edwardsville Friday, Aug. 29 | 8 AM Cadet East Gym Colorado Springs, Colo. Live Audio: CalBears.com Live Stats: CalBears.com
vs. Winthrop Saturday, Aug. 30 | 4 PM Cadet East Gym Colorado Springs, Colo. Live Audio: CalBears.com Live Stats: CalBears.com\
vs. Air Force Sunday, Aug. 31 | 12 PM Cadet East Gym Colorado Springs, Colo. Live Stream: themw.com Live Audio: CalBears.com Live Stats: CalBears.com
BERKELEY - Cal begins its quest for a 13th straight NCAA Tournament appearance this weekend as it opens the 2014 season at the Air Force Tournament. The Bears feature a strong core of returning players and a freshmen class ranked No. 9 nationally by PrepVolleyball.com. Leading the way is senior opposite hitter Christina Higgins, who was an AVCA Second Team All-American last season. Cal also returns sophomore libero Maddy Kerr, a 2013 Pac-12 All-Freshman pick. Juniors Lara Vukasovic and Lillian Schonewise make up one of the top middle blocker tandems in the conference. Freshmen Ashten Smith-Gooden and Christine Alftin come to Cal as two of the top high school outside hitters in the nation. Smith-Gooden was PrepVolleyball.com’s No. 5 Senior Ace.
BEAR NECESSITIES: CAL'S TOP STORYLINES, STREAKS & TRENDS
HIGGINS CLOSES IN ON 1,000 Senior opposite hitter Christina Higgins needs just 142 kills to become the 16th player in Cal history to reach 1,000 kills for a career. HIggins, an AVCA Second Team All-American last season, made the move from left side to right side in 2013 and thrived, hitting .292 and ranking ninth in the Pac-12 with 3.52 kills per set.
LIBERO/WARRIORS FAN Libero Maddy Kerr made an impact immediately, earning Pac-12 All-Freshman Team honors in 2013 after ranking ninth in the Pac-12 at 3.71 digs per set. She also had an exciting offseason when her father, Steve Kerr, was named the head coach of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Kerr’s 430 digs last season were the ninth-best single-season mark in Cal history.
LILLIAN’S TRAVELS Junior middle blocker Lillian Schonewise had quite the offseason. After joining her teammates for a two-week tour of Europe in the spring, she returned to the United States for just five days before travelling to China with a Pac-12 All-Star Team. Schonewise was the Bears’ leading hitter during their European Tour, hitting .452 against club and national teams.
(LOTS OF) NEW FACES The Bears have an eight-member freshmen class, giving them 19 players on the roster, the biggest in Rich Feller’s 16 years in Berkeley. The class is the ninth-best group of incoming players in the nation, according to PrepVolleyball.com. Three freshmen made PrepVolleyball.com’s list of the top 100 Senior Aces - outside hitter Ashten Smith-Gooden at No. 5, outside hitter Christine Alftin at No. 51 and middle blocker Laura Leap at No. 93.
FELLER REACHES 600-WIN MARK With Cal’s victory over North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season, Rich Feller became the 29th head coach in Division I history to amass 600 wins for a career. Feller has 301 wins in 16 seasons in Berkeley and 299 victories during his 14 years as the head coach at Colorado State.
ABOUT SIU-EDWARDSVILLE (0-0) • Picked to finish sixth in the 12-team Ohio Valley Conference • Setter Molly Mangun and libero Chelsea Colcalsure were chosen for the Preseason All-OVC Team • Went 14-18 last season • Last meeting: First meeting
ABOUT WINTHROP (0-0) • Picked to finish fifth in the 10-team Big South Conference • Setter Jessica Vicic holds the Big South record for single-season assists • Went 17-13 in 2013 • Last meeting: First meeting
ABOUT AIR FORCE (0-0) • Picked to finish ninth in the 11-team Mountain West Conference • Falcons’ coach Matt McShane is a former Cal assistant • Tournament honors Amy Svoboda, a 1989 graduate killed during 1989 training accident • Last meeting: First meeting