November 2012 Archives
Watch coach Rich Feller and middle hitters Shannon Hawari and Kat Brown at today's NCAA Tournament press conference from Ames, Iowa:
This edition of This Week in Cal Athletics focuses on the volleyball team's trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Cal's women's volleyball team has received an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. It's the 11th straight year the Bears have qualified for the postseason, which is a school record. Cal will open the tournament at Iowa State with a first-round match against North Carolina, which beat the Bears in the first round of last year's tourney.
Robin Rostratter may be on crutches, but the impact she made Monday night was just as significant as any sprawling dig or perfect pass she could have made on the court.
Rostratter, Cal's starting libero who is out for the season with hip and back injuries, got inside the team huddle after the second set against Utah and lit into her teammates. She got into each's face, exhorting them not to let this trying season get to the brink. She was angry, passionate and inspiring.
Her teammates listened.
The Bears forged a spirited comeback, erasing a two-set deficit to beat Utah 19-25, 17-25, 25-16, 25-15, 15-13 and keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
"She's a valuable player, and having her on the bench has been hard this year," Cal senior middle hitter Shannon Hawari said. "You can just tell how much she wants it for us, how much she wants to be out there with us but can't be. Having her tell us, each person, what we need to do - it's really motivating. She put her heart out there. That's one of my seniors so it pumped me up to fight for her."
They all fought, especially freshman outside hitter Lara Vukasovic, who came into the match to begin the third set and finished with a career-high 12 kills. Cal had been blocked 13 times during the first two sets against the Utes, who entered the match tied for seventh in the country in blocks. But Utah wasn't prepared for Vukasovic, who has played on and off this season and gives the Bears a different look at 6-foot-5.
"Lara was fearless and doesn't know what it's like to play in these kind of matches and really didn't care," Cal coach Rich Feller said. "She just went out there and swung away and played like there was nothing to lose. I think that energized people. That allowed other people to free up a little bit and just relax."
Taking the cue from their freshman teammate, the rest of the Bears fell in line. Senior opposite hitter Correy Johnson got hot. Hawari started to get into the act. And after being outblocked 13-1 in the first two sets, the Bears outblocked the Utes 7-5 over the final three.
"It's always a good thing when someone can come off the bench and just be aggressive and not be scared at all," Hawari said. "Lara did an awesome job. Because she is a freshman, it kind of gets us cohesive because we have to look out for that person that's not always out there with us. We get out of our own heads a little bit and come together as a team, and that really helps us."
The win moved the Bears' overall record to 15-14 (9-10 Pac-12), meaning they are now eligible for an NCAA Tournament berth. They have a chance to further strengten their resume in their regular season finale on Friday, when they host No. 2 Stanford in the Big Spike.
"Correy said a couple of things when we were in our meeting after the second set," Hawari said. "It was an emotional moment. Some of us will never play volleyball again after these two matches, possibly. I think obviously the seniors are aware of it everyday, but reminding the younger players that we want them to fight for us and work hard for us and the team is helpful."
Gennifer Brandon had her third straight double-double to begin the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Reshanda Gray had a big second half to finish with 22 points and six rebounds. The No. 11 Bears improve to 3-0.
Sophomore point guard Brittany Boyd had 10 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals despite playing just 20 minutes due to foul trouble. Talia Caldwell added 11 points and nine rebounds.
Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb hopes to beat opponents in different ways this season. The Bears can beat teams with athleticism and they can do the job with size. Today, Cal's post players really dominated. The Bears outscored the Mustangs 52-22 in the paint.
Gottlieb also had to be happy with the Bears' offensive efficiency. Cal had 19 assists and shot 50 percent from the floor.
Next up for the Bears: The Cal Classic by Doubletree this weekend at Haas Pavilion. The tournament features Cal, Eastern Washington, Georgetown and Cal State Fullerton. The Bears open against E. Washington on Friday at 1 p.m.
Women's volleyball follows women's basketball tonight at Haas Pavilion, with the Bears taking on Utah. Cal has two matches left, tonight and Friday in The Big Spike against No. 2 Stanford. The Bears are 14-14, meaning they have to win at least one of the two this week to finish at least .500, a prerequisite for qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. The question is whether that will be enough. Cal plays in the best conference in the country and has knocked off two top-10 teams -- No. 2 Oregon and No. 6 Hawaii. They have also lost close, five-set matches against top-ten opponents Washington and USC. The Bears have a strong RPI of 39.
The women's volleyball version of Selection Sunday is this Sunday. But first thing is first. The Bears have to take care of business on the court.
Gennifer Brandon had 18 points on 8-10 shooting to lead the Bears in the first half. Cal is shooting 56 percent from the field and has 14 assists on its 20 baskets. Sophomore point guard Brittany Boyd has six assists in nine minutes.
Cal Poly went on a 16-4 run late in the half to cut into Cal's advantage. The Mustangs are 5-6 from 3-point land. They are also holding their own on the boards, behind just 19-14 on the glass.
The teams combined for 25 fouls in the first half. Boyd and sophomore Reshanda Gray have three each.
Offensive lineman Tyler Rigsbee speaks at Tuesday's weekly press conference:
Defensive back Steve Williams speaks at Tuesday's weekly press conference:
Jeff Tedford speaks at Tuesday's weekly press conference:
Men's basketball coach Mike Montgomery talks about the recruiting class he signed Wednesday:
Missy Franklin likes to have fun, even if it means stringing along her future college coach for a few minutes.
Before the Olympic gold medalist informed women's swimming and diving coach Teri McKeever that she wanted to come to Cal, she made it sound like she didn't.
"She went into a long spiel of how it was hard to make a decision and basically said all the buzz words you say when you want to thank someone and then say no thanks," McKeever said. "Luckily, she said she wanted to come."
Truth be told, there was never a doubt in Franklin's mind that Cal was the school for her. The high school senior from Centennial, Colo. captured the imagination of the world last summer by winning four gold medals and a bronze at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Franklin signed her National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, highlighting an elite recruiting class that included three other top-15 recruits that should keep the Bears at the top of college swimming.
When asked to sum up Cal in one word, Franklin said: "Perfect, because I can't find a single thing that I don't like about it. The team is absolutely amazing. I obviously love the coaches. The campus itself is gorgeous. I can just see myself going there. I am so over the moon. I can't believe I am going to be a freshman there next year."
During the 2012 Olympics, Franklin set a world record in taking the gold medal in the 200-meter backstroke in a time of 2:04.06. She won the gold in the 100-meter backstroke with an American record time of 58.33. Franklin was also part of the United States' gold-medal winning relay teams in the 400-meter medley and 800-meter freestyle relay. Her 400-meter freestyle relay team took the bronze.
McKeever was the U.S. Olympic Team coach, and Franklin said their relationship is another big reason she chose to come to Berkeley.
"I first got interested in Cal when I started going on national team trips for swimming and Coach Teri was almost always on the staff," Franklin said. "I always remember looking up to her and just always admiring her coaching style and how she coached the girls. I always wanted to be a part of that group and I always wanted to be coached under Teri. I've worked with so many amazing college coaches but I always felt a really, really special draw to Coach Teri and I'm so thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to work with her."
Franklin is an addition to what is becoming a long list of Olympic swimmers to swim for Cal, a group that includes 12-time medalist Natalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer and Caitlyn Leverenz, each of whom won medals in London over the summer. Leverenz is currently a senior at Cal.
Franklin obviously won't be your ordinary freshman next fall, but McKeever expects her to blend in and fully embrace everything Cal has to offer.
"I just think in my heart intellectually I felt like this was a good fit for her," McKeever said. "But I also know that I've been doing this long enough that you never know. Until I actually heard it, I wasn't going to put the cart before the horse. I'm very pleased that she's going to be part of it.
"She knew a lot about myself, she knew a lot about people who attended Cal, but she had never been on campus. That was my uncertainty, just physically how would she feel on campus. She indicated that she felt at home right away and felt comfortable and could see herself at a coffee shop studying and just engaging with the community at whole. I think that's definitely what she was looking for."
Franklin plans on swimming at Cal for two seasons before turning pro in preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but plans on still pursuing her degree.
"I would love to get a degree from Cal. That's my ultimate goal," Franklin said. "Academics have always been really, really important to me, so regardless of my amateur or professional status, I know I'm going to end with a degree from Cal, which is going to be one of the most exciting parts of this entire experience and this entire blessing."
When asked what she will bring to Cal's team when she arrives on campus, Franklin's answer had nothing to do with her accomplishments in the pool.
"I hope to bring whatever it is that they need," Franklin said. "I want to be there as a friend, a teammate, a motivator, whatever it is that I can be for my teammates. I can't wait to get to know the girls even better. They are already like my family, so I can't even imagine how it's going to be once I'm actually part of the team."
Sunday night's first game of the season was. ...well, a first game of the season.
There was the expected sloppiness and letdown once a big lead was established.
Cal coach Mike Montgomery had plenty to talk to his team about following the Bears' 78-65 win over Cal State Bakersfield at Haas Pavilion.
But there wasn't much fault to be found with starting point guard Justin Cobbs.
It wasn't just that Cobbs had 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting, six rebounds and three assists. It was more the way he went about his business. He was a calming influence. He was aggressive yet under control in the open floor. He ran the Bears' offense smoothly.
"He knows what we're trying to do," Montgomery said. "He's very comfortable out there. It was a pretty economical effort."
The Bears scored 20 fast-break points, and a handful of them came on Cobbs' playmaking ability. Cobbs made the right decisions in transition, sometimes finishing himself and other times giving it up for a better option.
Cobbs brought the crowd of 8,715 to its collective feet with a spectacular finish in the second half. He took an outlet pass, rushed down the court, crossed over the key and avoided a defender with a dipsy-doo layup, using a little English off the glass to convert.
"The point guard is supposed to lead the team and control the tempo of the game, and did a great job of getting us in the right situations to make sure we execute," said Cal guard Allen Crabbe, who went for 27 points, including 20 in the first half. "Justin definitely did a good job of that tonight. It's good for us too because Justin has scoring ability, so if they take certain things away from us, that can open things up for Justin. He did well tonight making sure everybody was under control and that we were executing."
Montgomery used Cobbs at both point guard and shooting guard Sunday - Cobbs played without the ball in his hands when senior point guard Brandon Smith was on the floor. While Cobbs is a scoring point guard, Montgomery would like him to be even more aggressive in terms of finding shots for himself.
"He's better with the ball in his hands, or he likes having the ball in his hands," Montgomery said. "He's a little reluctant shooter. He doesn't always catch and shoot."
Much has been made in the preseason about the backcourt combination of Cobbs and Crabbe, who form what many consider the top returning backcourt in the Pac-12. Considering the duo combined for 49 points on 19-for-28 floor shooting, they are certainly off to the expected start.
"I love playing with this man," Cobbs said, sitting next to Crabbe in the postgame interview room. "We feed off each other. God has blessed us both with talent, and we try to get each other involved. I'm very excited to play with Allen."
NOTES: Freshman guard Tyrone Wallace made his college debut and six points, five rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes. "He was a little nervous," Montgomery said. "But I thought as time went on he did a good job. Tyrone is a smart player. We're really encouraged with Ty. He's a little tentative. He's not really sure what to do all the time. But 23 minutes was a pretty good stretch for him." ... The 22 points was Cobbs' most since scoring a career-high 28 last season against Oregon. That was also the last time the Bears had two 20-point scorers in a game. Harper Kamp also scored 20 in that game. ... David Kravish and Richard Solomon led Cal with nine rebounds apiece.
Lots to work on but Bears win fairly comfortably, although sloppiness made it closer than it probably should have been. Allen Crabbe was just three shy of his career high with 27 points. Justin Cobbs was the best player on the floor with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists and a basic control of the game when he was on the floor.
Next up: Cal hosts Pepperdine Tuesday at 6:30 on the Pac-12 Networks.
Overall a successful first half for the Bears. Mike Montgomery's biggest concern heading into the opener was defense, and Cal is holding the Roadrunners to 35.3 percent floor shooting. Star guard Allen Crabbe is lighting it up, connecting on 4 of 4 from 3-point land and scoring 20 points. But Crabbe went down hard in traffic late in the first half and limped off the court with Cal's trainers.
Point guard Justin Cobbs has 14 points. He and Crabbe are shooting a combined 13-for-20 from the field.
Another men's basketball season is upon us. About 15 minutes from now, the Bears kick off the 2012-13 season against Cal State Bakersfield at Haas Pavilion. Cal begins its quest to make the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in Mike Montgomery's five years as coach.
Players return, player graduate, but every season a team
forms its own identity in college sports.
"I think we have some guys that can score," Montgomery said. "We need to develop a couple more. We have fairly good depth at the big position but I haven't seen anybody step forward and be a go-to guy at the low post. Maybe we'll play a lot more players and give people a chance to see what they can do at the big position."
Montgomery is hopeful David Kravish can take the next step after a promising freshman campaign. Kravish started the final 21 games of the season and averaged 6.9 points per game. He also led the team with 41 blocks and was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team.
For Kravish, part of that improvement may come with strength. Montgomery said he put on 10 pounds in the offseason.
"He's getting better," Montgomery said. "He too is a kid that is going to have to step up and take a little more of a dominant role. Right now, he just needs to focus on what he's capable of doing and do it more consistently. We need him to be a significant contributor on this team. He can't take a backseat. He can't be a secondary player."
As good as Crabbe has been in his Cal career, there is still room for further improvement. Montgomery thinks Crabbe can play hungrier and have a more dominant personality on the court, again something that will help the Bears compensate for the loss of Gutierrez and Kamp from last season.
"He's pretty good now," Montgomery said. "He doesn't have a dominant type of personality so he's got to probably get a little hungrier and know he has to make plays consistently. He can't afford to get discouraged or check out or let people take him out of a game. He has to consistently push because people are going to do whatever they can to minimize him, I would think. He's going to have to play through that."
The Bears were picked to finish in third place in the preseason Pac-12 media poll and have several players with NCAA Tournament experience. The Bears have been to the NCAA Tournament in three of Montgomery's first four seasons as coach.
"We have to go through the process," Montgomery said. "We'll find out that games are different than practices, that all of the sudden other people scout you, they take away certain things. We'll figure it out or not in game situations, what it's going to take, how hard we're going to have to play to have a chance to win."
Ducks wrap up a 59-17 victory. Cal played Oregon extremely tough for a half and then some, closing to 24-17 early in the third quarter. But the Ducks showed why they have the No. 1 scoring offense in the country in the second half.
Cal RB Isi Sofele rushed for a season-high 134 yards and a touchdown. He also had the two longest runs against Oregon this season -- 35 and 31 yards.
Cal's defense held Heisman Trophy candidate Kenjon Barner to 73 yards on 20 carries and limited Oregon's potent running game to just 180 yards on 48 carries. But the Ducks had 395 yards passing, as quarterback Marcus Mariota threw for six touchdowns.
The Bears now have one regular season game left, next Saturday night at Oregon State.
Oregon has unleashed its high-powered offense here in the second half and now leads 59-17 with 3:46 remaining in the game.
Oregon leads 38-17 at the end of the third quarter. Isi Sofele has rushed for a season-high 132 yards and a touchdown for the Bears. Quarterback Allan Bridgford, playing for injured starter Zach Maynard, has completed 9 of 20 passes for 113 yards with a touchdown and interception.
Fantastic start to second half for the Bears. Cal stops Oregon on fourth down and then drives 76 yards for touchdown to make it 24-17. Isi Sofele runs it in from four yards out for his third TD of the season. Sofele now has a season-high 118 yards.
Total yards: Oregon 287, Cal 193.
First downs: Oregon 16, Cal 12
Rushing: Sofele 8-64.
Passing: Bridgford 7-12-0 87, 1 TD
Receiving: Harper 2-35.
Tackles: Forbes 8.
Ca has tied the game at 7-7 with 8:04 remaining in the first half on the first career touchdown pass by Allan Bridgford and first career TD catch by Darius Powe. Powe got wide open in the left back corner of the end zone and Bridgford found him easily for a 10-yard strike.
The seniors being honored tonight are running back C.J. Anderson, cornerback Marc Anthony, wide receiver Ross Bostock, defensive back Tyre' Ellison, offenisve lineman Dominic Galas, defensive back Josh Hill, linebacker J.P. Hurrell, linebacker Kaulin Krebs, wide receiver Kameron Krebs, running back Mike Manuel, quarterback Zach Maynard, linebacker Robert Mullins, nose tackle Kendrick Payne, offensive lineman Tyler Rigsbee, center Brian Scwhenke, running back Isi Sofele, fullback Eric Stevens, offensive lineman Matt Summers-Gavin and nose tackle Aaron Tipoti.
Cal's captains tonight are fullback Eric Stephens, center Brian Schwenke, defensive back Josh Hill and nose guard Aaron Tipoti.
We're about 90 minutes away from kickoff here at Memorial Stadium. Cal takes on No. 2 Oregon tonight. Bring your gloves!
Cal forward Gennifer Brandon could barely speak after Friday night's season-opener at Haas Pavilion. Plagued by a cold, her soft-spoken comments seemed out of place as the representative of a team that just manhandled an inferior opponent.
Brandon had 17 points and 10 rebounds and the Bears had five players score in double-figures in an 80-48 rout in front of 3,528 enthusiastic fans. The product looked a lot like last year - the Bears outrebounded the Mountain Hawks 53-35, registered 12 steals and turned 18 turnovers into 20 points.
"Overall we did pretty well for our first game that counts," Brandon said softly in the postgame interview room. "We played together. We played sloppy at times but we maintained our goal to sustain it through 40 minutes
"I sound creepy," she added apologetically.
The Bears were in no position to make apologies after overwhelming Lehigh with its superior athleticism. Cal was especially dominant on defense, holding the Mountain Hawks scoreless for over six minutes to begin the game.
When Marybeth Egan nailed a 3-pointer for Lehigh's first points at the 13:45 mark of the first half, the Bears already had a 14-0 lead.
"We started out with a ton of energy," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "We were really good defensively in the first half. It was a nice way to start the season."
Sophomore point guard Brittany Boyd added 16 points while senior guard Layshia Clarendon had 14 points. Reshanda Gray had 10 points and seven rebounds and Afure Jemerigbe scored 10 as well.
The Bears went 25-10 last season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Big things are expected this season of Cal, which didn't graduate anybody and began the season ranked 13th in the Associated Press preseason top 25.
Last year's success was predicated on athleticism and winning the battle of the boards, two assets that were displayed prominently Friday.
"I think we always start out wanting to out-athlete people," Gottlieb said. "Now we want to out-execute them, too. We want to be a better team with execution, but our bread and butter will always be to run down the court faster than the other team."
There is no question it was sloppy at times, but that's bound to happen in a lopsided game and in a first game. Defense is typically sharper than offense, and that was the case for the Bears.
Then again, when you corral 22 offensive rebounds that lead to 22 second-chance points, it doesn't feel quite as sloppy.
"The good thing is we win a game by 30 points and we are already talking about what we need to do better," Gottlieb said. "We're ready to go for practice tomorrow."
For Brandon and her teammates, it's been an especially long offseason. While losing to Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season was tough, it also made the Bears hungrier and excited for the future. Cal believes it can be better this season not only because everyone is back, but because everyone will be better. Friday was the first chance to prove it.
"We love each other, we play for each other, we want the best for each other," Brandon said. "We're a family. We're sisters. I think that love is what drives us to do well on the court."
The Bears are playing suffocating defense in their season-opener against Lehigh, holding the Mountain Hawks to 24 percent shooting in the first half and building a 44-20 lead. Cal is outrebounding Lehigh 29-16 and the Bears have 14 offensive rebounds which have led to 16 second-chance points. The Bears have also forced Lehigh into 12 turnovers which have resulted in 14 points. Cal has eight steals in the first half. Junior forward Gennifer Brandon has 10 points and four rebounds to lead the Bears.
The calendar says it's been an eight-month offseason for Cal's women's basketball team, but it may have well been eight years.
When you have nobody graduate from a team that went 25-10 and almost took down the eventual national runner-up, you kind of want to get back on the court as soon as possible.
"I think Talia (Caldwell) wanted to play the day we got back from South Bend," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said.
It's been eight months of anticipation since the Bears fell to Notre Dame 73-62 in the second round of last season's NCAA Tournament. Cal was tied with the Fighting Irish at halftime of that game and it was one second-half run that lifted Notre Dame to the win. The Irish went on to play in the national title game before losing to Baylor.
"They've been committed to using the offseason to get better, but were definitely eager to get on the court," Gottlieb said. "There's a really good feel around the team right now."
The long wait finally ends Friday night when the Bears open the 2012-13 season against Lehigh at Haas Pavilion. Cal enters the season ranked 13th by the Associated Press and was picked to finish second behind Stanford in the preseason Pac-12 media poll.
"We're really excited to start this year," Gottlieb said. "When last year ended and we were in the locker room after Notre Dame, there was disappointment in not having won that game but there was a lot of optimism for the future of the program. As a group, we wanted to make sure that we were a team to be reckoned with this year, not simply because we were going to have everyone returning, but because the people returning would be better and collectively we would be better. I think that's what we'll see this year."
Cal is led by All-Pac-12 first team pick Layshia Clarendon, who could team with sophomore Brittany Boyd to form one of the country's most formidable backcourts this season. A starting point guard as a freshman, Boyd earned All-Pac-12 Freshman Team honors last year, as did forward Reshanda Gray. Now sophomores, Gottlieb says both players are ready to channel their considerable talents even more this season.
"Brittany and Reshanda were gamers," Gottlieb said. "They adapted to the college game very quickly. The fact they were able to make plays at the next level was remarkable. But I think now they have a better understanding of preparation. They have a better understanding of how to prepare to be a college athlete, and then their wonderful talents still come out."
Boyd also was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention last season, as was forward Gennifer Brandon.
Gottlieb said the team reached its goals last season in her first as Cal's head coach. Given the experience and talent on this year's team, those goals are now loftier.
"I don't think we're OK to be second anymore," Gottlieb said. "I don't think we're OK to be close. That was part of last year, re-establishing our identity. I think we're ready to start talking about what is the next level for us. That's becoming an elite team in women's college basketball and that's going deeper in the tournament. That's cutting down nets somewhere down the road."
The Bears hope that road this season leads to New Orleans, the site of the 2013 Final Four.
Offensive lineman Brian Schwenke speaks at Tuesday's weekly press conference:
Defensive back Josh Hill speaks at Tuesday's weekly press conference:
Football coach Jeff Tedford speaks at Tuesday's weekly press conference:
When the big screen in the Kronk Meeting Room inside the Simpson Center displayed Cal's name on NCAA.com's NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Monday, it produced a mixture of applause and gasps from the Bears' women's soccer players.
Yes, the Bears were happy to be in the NCAA Tournament. They were not quite as happy that they were put on the road for a first-round matchup at Pepperdine.
"We expected to host and we hoped to host," Cal coach Neil McGuire said. "But we prepared them that either way, it doesn't matter. It's just a soccer field and another team that we have to look in the eye."
With a strong RPI, a No. 23 national ranking and a third-place finish in the top-heavy Pac-12, the Bears felt they were deserving to host a first-round match. The top two teams in the conference are Stanford and UCLA, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country.
But the Bears will have to make the 384-mile bus trip to Malibu instead for a Saturday matchup at 1 p.m. Since Pepperdine's campus is less than 400 miles away, Cal must take buses rather than fly south.
"We're kind of used to being pushed aside a little bit," Cal senior Lauren Battung said. "It's always going to be a motivational factor. At the same time, we're prepared for any situation."
The Bears (15-5) aren't just going on the road. They have their hands full with a tough opponent. Pepperdine (12-6) is ranked 22nd nationally after finishing in third place in the West Coast Conference.
Battung said while some of the Bears feel slighted they didn't get a home match, they aren't taking their position for granted.
"We always have to be appreciative of the position we are in," she said. "That can never be overlooked. Sometimes that can be lost. We're very thankful to be there and we know we've worked hard. I'm personally very excited. I'm ready for anything that comes to us."
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