Cal's men's golf team advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Championships last season before bowing out against Alabama.
Need a little something to get over that final hump and take home the national title? How about adding in someone who came four feet away from being declared the top amateur in the nation?
The Bears return their entire NCAA lineup from last season in 2012-13 and welcome back junior Michael Weaver, who was a redshirt last season. Weaver had a potential tournament-winning four-foot putt horseshoe out on the final hole of the championship match of this year's U.S. Amateur, where he ended up losing on the first playoff hole.
Teammate Brandon Hagy advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur and the Bears had five players in the tournament overall. All five of those players are on this year's team.
Not surprisingly, Cal is the No. 1 team in the country early this season, winning all three tournaments it has entered. The Bears host their only event of the season Monday and Tuesday at the Meadow Club in Fairfax.
"We knew we were going to be at full strength coming into this year," said Cal coach Steve Desimone, now in his 34th season at Cal. "It's not a surprise. The developmental progression these guys have been on has continued in a positive way. These guys have been high-achievers all of their lives. They are used to success."
The Bears have four of Golfweek's top 31 players - No. 3 Max Homa, No. 5 Michael Kim, No. 20 Michael Weaver and No. 31 Brandon Hagy. Homa advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur.
Desimone thought his program might be able to take the next step to this level when Hagy, Homa and Weaver arrived on campus as part of a blue-chip recruiting class in 2009. The grand plan hasn't disappointed.
"We knew that was a special group when they came in," Desimone said. "There's been no plateau, no regression. That's really unusual. In college golf, there's usually some variability, even with the best teams. We have guys who want to work hard and learn and compete. When you have that, you have a chance to do great things, and that's what's happening with this program."
The Bears haven't just been good the last couple of years, they've been consistently good. Cal has won nine of the last 17 tournaments it has entered, and it has finished in the top-five of every single one of them.
"Just practicing with each other, we push each other a lot," Hagy said. "Through the years, we've gotten better together. We've all improved a lot since my freshman year, and some of that has to do with competing against each other and practicing together."
Weaver redshirted last season to prepare for entering the prestigious Haas School of Business. He was able to still enter amateur tournaments from time to time, which clearly helped him get ready for the U.S. Amateur in August. It was a big year for Weaver, and next year will be big, too. In addition to helping the Bears try to take home a national championship, Weaver gained automatic entry into The Masters and U.S. Open with his runner-up finish at the U.S. Amateur.
"It was a great week. The finish was obviously not what I had hoped," Weaver said of the U.S. Amateur. "It was a lot of fun, but the disappointing part is I didn't win. All in all, it was a great week. It kind of validated in my own mind that I could play with all the good players. I always thought I could, but thinking it and doing it are a lot different."
The Bears lost to Alabama on the final hole of its NCAA semifinal last season. With the firepower remaining on this year's team, there is only one goal talked about among Cal's players.
"Last year provides motivation and it was a good experience, too," Hagy said. "We have to continue to make our statement, and we do that by winning tournaments. This is the fall season. These three wins are a good step for us, but we want to win the last three tournaments."
The women's soccer team won its sixth straight and 10th of the last 11th match this afternoon, defeating Arizona State on the road, 2-0. The Bears are now 12-3 overall, 5-1 in the Pac-12 Conference. Cal can move into second place in the conference standings if UCLA does not beat Washington on the road tonight. The Bears have just five regular season matches remaining, including showdowns with UCLA and first-place Stanford.
When Cal women's soccer coach Neil McGuire watched a handful of freshmen make an impact in 2010, he knew he might have something special on his hands down the road.
That road has reached the 2012 season, and McGuire and the Bears are starting to reap the benefits.
That freshman class has turned into a core of experienced juniors, and they are a big reason why Cal takes a five-match winning streak into Friday afternoon's Pac-12 Conference game at Arizona State at 1 p.m.
"When you have a seed and you pour water on it, it's eventually going to flourish," McGuire said. "They've definitely grown in maturity and stature, and they also have tremendous leadership qualities."
Several of those freshmen from 2010 are making an impact for this year's Bears, who not only have won five in a row, but have taken nine of 10 and are smack-dab in the middle of the Pac-12 race at 11-3 overall, 4-1 in conference play. Junior Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick leads the team with 34 shots and ranks third with 11 points. Emi Lawson, who has five points, is a top defender who was a Pac-12 All-Freshman Team selection along with Fitzpatrick two years ago.
Junior Emily Kruger has been the team's starting goaltender since midway through her freshman season. Fellow juniors Rachel Mercik and Genessee Daughetee are also entrenched in the starting lineup.
Throw in another productive freshman class, led by explosive forward Ifeoma Onumonu's team-best eight goals and 19 points, as well as senior and New Zealand Olympian Betsy Hassett, and it's easy to see why Cal is in the thick of the Pac-12 race.
"This team is playing well together," McGuire said. "The team is fit, for the most part it's healthy, and we're playing good soccer. When you have those three components working in your favor, it's a benefit."
While the Bears are talented and experienced, McGuire says just as important is the chemistry he's observed between teammates.
"They are a very caring group for each other," McGuire said. "We don't have any divide by class. They are incredibly close -- the most I've ever experienced in my coaching career."
With a big week of volleyball ahead on the schedule, there
are a slew of activities and promotions that should make for an exciting
atmosphere at Haas Pavilion as Cal welcomes No. 6 USC and No. 7 UCLA to town.
The Bears, who are 9-7 and 3-3 in the Pac-12 Conference,
host the Trojans on Friday at 8 p.m. As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month,
it will be "Think Pink, Dig Pink Day" at Haas Pavilion, meaning all fans
wearing pink get in for just $3. Also, the first 500 fans will receive a free
pink ribbon courtesy of Zeta Tau Alpha. The festivities will also include a
special Greek Challenge at halftime where members of Cal fraternities and
sororities will compete in a "pink" yogurt eating contest.
Cal then welcomes the Bruins to Haas Pavilion on Sunday at 2
p.m., and it will be Beach Day as well as Girl Scout Day. There will be
beach-themed activities for all fans on Spieker Plaza outside Haas Pavilion
from 1-2 p.m., including photo opportunities with a beach backdrop and
accessories such as oversized sunglasses and hula skirts. There will also be face
painting, Cal script tattoos, and a chance for kids to dig through a sand-filled
kiddie pool to win cool Cal Volleyball prizes.
Girls Scouts will take part in pre-match poster making and
also have the opportunity to participate in all of the Beach Day activities.
The first 1,000 fans will receive free leis, and all fans
that bring a beach towel will get to sit courtside for the match.
Also Sunday, Cal Coach Rich Feller will hold a "Chalk Talk"
session in the Haas Pavilion Club Room from 1:15-1:30 p.m. where he will
preview the match and field questions from fans.
Finally, all Cal players will be available for autographs
following each match this week.
For more information or to buy tickets, call 800-GO-BEARS.
Former Cal star basketball player Jorge Gutierrez will continue his career in Mexico. The 2012 Pac-12 Player of the Year has signed with Pioneros de Quintana Roo of Cancun. The team plays in the National Professional Basketball League.
Former Cal swimmer and Olympian Anthony Ervin just started competing in the 2012 World Cup, which will take him to Dubai, Doha, Stockholm, Moscow, Berlin, Beijing, Tokyo and Singapore. At the first stop yesterday in Dubai, Ervin swam a lifetime best 21.07 to win the 50 freestyle. He also swam a personal-best 47.04 to finish second in the 100 freestyle.
You can follow Ervin's journey here, which also has information on how to support the former Bear with his travel expenses.
The volleyball team's showdown against No. 2 Oregon tonight at Haas Pavilion will be nationally televised by the Pac-12 Networks. The match begins at 7 p.m.
Cal is 8-6, 2-2 in conference play while the Ducks are 13-0, 4-0 in the Pac-12. Oregon has dropped just three sets all season.
Still, the Bears are feeling good after their four-set win at Arizona last Sunday. It's been an up-and-down season so far for Cal, with key injuries having a lot to do with that. But Cal played its best all-around match of the season against the Wildcats. If the Bears can duplicate the same kind of performance, they should be able to give Oregon a challenge.
Tonight is the first of four home matches in a row for the Bears, who started the season by playing 10 of their first 14 on the road. Cal welcomes Oregon State to Berkeley on Friday night. Next week, it's No. 5 USC coming to Haas Pavilion on Friday and No. 6 UCLA in on Sunday.
A big week by the women's soccer team highlighted the Bears in action last week.
The No. 19 Cal women swept their Pac-12 home matches against the Oregon schools, including an impressive 3-1 victory Sunday over Oregon State, which came in ranked No. 12 in the country.
The Bears held a staggering 25-7 advantage in shots against the Beavers, which entered the week with a 9-1 record. Ifeoma Onumonu scored her team-best fifth goal of the season as Cal scored two second-half goals to take command.
In the win over the Ducks on Friday, Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick and Celeste Boureille scored goals as Cal registered it second straight shutout, 2-0. Fitzpatrick has five career goals against Oregon, including a hat trick last season.
In other Cal action last week:
The football team suffered a tough 27-17 loss to Arizona State. Wide receiver Keenan Allen caught four passes and now has 177 in his career. He needs four more to move into third place on Cal's all-time list. Safety Avery Sebastian had 15 tackles, which is the most by a Cal player since 2010.
The women's volleyball team split a pair of matches, losing in three sets to at Arizona State and then beating Arizona in four sets. Sophomore Christina Higgins averaged 3.00 kills per set over the two matches.
The men's soccer team split its first two Pac-12 matches, beating San Diego State 1-0 in double overtime and then losing to No. 9 UCLA, 3-1. Stefano Bonomo scored his third straight game-winning goal for the Bears against the Aztecs.
The No. 4 men's water polo team went 2-2 at the SoCal Invitational, knocking off No. 14 Air Force 22-4 and No. 7 Pepperdine,12-9. The Bears fell to No. 5 UC Irvine 13-11 and No. 8 Pacific 10-9 in overtime.
The women's tennis team had a strong showing at the Cal Nike Invitational. Sophomore Zsofi Susanyi, the No. 1 seed, beat teammate Anett Schutting for the Gold Flight singles title. Sophomore Cecilia Estlander took the Blue Flight singles crown. The Bears also won the doubles title in the Gold Flight and Blue Flight.
The women's cross country team placed ninth at the Stanford Invitational. Junior Elisa Karhu was the Bears' top finisher, placing 41st in the 6000-meter race with a time of 21:58. The men placed 14th as a team, with freshman Leland Later leading the Bears with a 47th-place finish in the 8000-meter race in a time of 25:25.
The field hockey team fell to Stanford 2-1 and UC Davis 3-1. The Bears are 3-6 on the season, and five of the losses have been by one goal.