Cal Men's Water Polo stays undefeated
Men's Soccer and Volleyball has started conference play, Women's Soccer and Field Hockey will start this weekend
[Author’s note: This post was originally mistakenly published as paid-subscribers-only. Apologies if you have gotten this post via email twice.]
We have got two weeks’ worth of action to recap because I did not get around to write a post last week. Just like how Cal Football will play their first conference game this weekend, we have also reached conference competition time for the Fall Olympic sports. I share my thoughts (some more educated than others given the limited games/matches that I was able to watch/follow) on the squads.
Cal Men’s Water Polo stays a perfect 10-0 ahead of hosting MPSF Invitational this weekend
While the results have been arguably closer than ideal in some of their matches, Cal Men’s Water Polo stays perfect on the season. The first (of many) real tests will be this weekend when they will have the possibility to play up to two of USC, UCLA, and Stanford.
No.3 Cal 13, No.7 Pacific 6
Jack Deely recorded 6 goals while goalie Adrian Weinberg made 13 saves in his season debut after returning from the FINA World Junior Championships.
No.3 Cal 16, No.13 San Jose State 9
Despite the score, Cal did not pull away until the second half in their first home match of the season. Miles O'Brien-Schridde and Nikolaos Papanikolaou both scored four goals for the Bears.
Deely was named the MPSF Player of the Week for recording 13 points (goals plus assists).
Despite the two wins, Cal dropped in the rankings to No.4.
No.4 Cal 16, No.19 Cal Baptist 8
Papanikolaou scored a career-high 7 goals in this win, the first of four matches for the Bears over three days.
No.4 Cal 14, No.8 UC Davis 11
A strong fourth-quarter from Cal goalie Weinberg allowed the Bears to turn a one-goal late third-quarter deficit to a tough road victory.
No.4 Cal 11, No. 11 San Jose State 9
Cal defense held San Jose State to 1-for-16 on power plays (but they also allowed way too many power plays) to hold on to this close win. Freshman Roberto Valera recorded a hat trick and eventually was named the MPSF Newcomer of the Week.
This win was No.400 for Cal head coach Kirk Everist. The Cal alum as well as “Calympian” now has a lifetime record of 400-123.
No.4 Cal 13, No.7 Pacific 11
Cal again needed a clutch fourth-quarter to beat a top-10 opponent. Miles O'Brien-Schridde and Nikolaos Papanikolaou both recorded hat-tricks for the Bears.
With 15 goals over the four matches (though 7 came from just one), Nikolaos Papanikolaou both made a case for the Peter Cutino award as well as earned the MPSF Player of the Week honor.
Again, there will be a lot of exciting water polo action from Berkeley this weekend. Hopefully, the third-seed Cal Bears can ride the home pool advantage to make a big statement when it is all over.
Cal Women’s Soccer wraps the non-conference schedule with a 4-1-2 record
After losing two matches (Sacramento State and a road rematch at Santa Clara, the defending NCAA champs) due to COVID problems within the program, Cal Women’s Soccer was at least able to show play two matches as the final two tune-ups ahead of the Pac-12 opener this Saturday.
Cal 0, UC Irvine 1 (2nd OT)
The Anteater was able to score the golden goal despite Cal outshooting them 14 to 4 on the match. Cal was not sharp offensively while Irvine capitalized on their lone scoring chance in the 100 plus minutes.
Cal had only limited practices and played this match wearing masks due to the previous COVID problems. On a positive note, it did appear that the entire roster was available for this match - Neil McGuire did use 22 players in this match.
Cal 2, Long Beach State 0
Two freshmen Karlie Lema (being opportunistic on a counter) and Ari Manrique (converting a penalty) scored early in the second half within a four-minute stretch for the Cal Bears. Keeper Angelina Anderson did not need to make any saves for yet another clean sheet to her name.
End of non-conference schedule thoughts:
The No.1 recruiting class has been as advertised, providing impacts all over the field, particularly offensively. Cal’s 5th-year-senior and playmaker Emma Westin has yet to debut this fall. Her eventual return could shift the Cal offense to another gear.
Cal is only 62nd on the RPI right now and it is somewhat concerning that the entire Pac-12 is ranked fairly low outside of Oregon State at No.8. Nonetheless, Cal just needs to take care of business in Pac-12 play and hopefully avoid the occasional dropped points against lesser teams that had plagued them for the past decade.
A reason for optimism is that the Cal youngsters should only improve with time.
Cal Volleyball (7-5, 0-1 in Pac-12) fought No.14 Stanford hard in Big Spike
Cal started the Big Spike on Wednesday night from The Farm with a first set win, but could not hold on for the win. Cal won the first set by hitting 0.395 as a team, but their offensive efficiency dropped after that. Stanford had a more consistent offense all night. You can check out the Pac-12 Network highlights below.
Mima Mirkovic led the Bears with 14 kills to go with 10 digs for yet another double-double. Katie Smoot added 12 kills. Annalea Maeder (26 assists) and Kendall Jansen (17 assists) split time as the setter.
Cal will next host USC on Sunday afternoon.
End of non-conference schedule thoughts:
With a completely different team/look from the spring, not to mention the 2019 season, Cal Volleyball had an uneven non-conference performance in only going 7-4.
Transfer Katie Smoot as an outside hitter has been a revelation, with a team-high 3.57 kills/set. However, Smoot is only hitting 0.195 on the season, which is not very efficient. Both of the standouts from the spring in outside hitter Kat Pantovic and middle blocker Lydia Grote had not played much (or at all, as the case for Grote) likely due to injuries.
Returning from Beach Volleyball, Mima Mirkovic has only earned 2.58 k/s, a drop from 2019 when she was the Cal leader at 3.28 k/s, but I do expect her to pick this up in Pac-12 play due to necessity. Despite not being the tallest (which helps her defensively), Mirkovic is still the most explosive hitter on the squad. The Bears will likely need her to beat the better blocking in Pac-12 play.
More newcomers who shone are freshmen Annalea Maeder as the setter and Sarah Schrag as libero/defensive specialist. As a tall setter, Maeder is particularly useful as an extra blocker at the net. Veteran middle blocker Bella Bergmark has also played quite well, but when she is rotated out, freshman Ellie Hamm is not as efficient. As the opposite, lefty Sydney Lilomaiava is sometimes frustratingly inconsistent.
While the Cal Bears are clearly going to be much more competitive this fall than the one-win team this spring, I am not as certain now as during the pre-season that they can win enough tough Pac-12 matches to make that long-overdue return to the NCAA tournament.
The Bears just need to minimize the number of points given up on some non-ideal rotations. This issue could be patched up in-season by some underclassmen playing better or the return of other players from injuries. We shall see.
Cal Field Hockey (4-3) has only lost to top-10 ranked opponents
Cal 4, Towson 1
Cal 0, No.7 Maryland 4
Cal 2, Brown 1
Cal 1, No.4 Northwestern 5
The Cal Bears will again be heading back East to play more field hockey this weekend, as America East conference play starts for the Bears at New Hampshire and UMass-Lowell. Assuming that they do return to Berkeley midweek, Cal will next make another trip the following weekend to Maine and Vermont. A third conference trip two weeks after that will be to Monmouth (in New Jersey) and Albany (New York).
End of non-conference schedule thoughts:
The three Cal losses so far this year have been to No.10 Liberty (3-0), No.7 Maryland (4-0), and No.4 Northwestern (5-1). The Bears have shown a lot of grit in winning their other games. While the Cal Bears may be a step or two below the top-10 teams in the country, an improvement to be the 11th-25th best team in the country would still be a significant step forward this season for the program.
Graduate transfer Anne Van Hoof from Wake Forest leads the team with 4 goals. Four other Bears have tallied a goal so far.
Slightly concerning for the Bears, goalkeeper Cato Knipping has missed the last two matches. Fortunately for the Bears, unlike Stanford who opted to play without a goalie, Cal does have a backup in Lyndsay Swanston, a grad transfer from Bryant.
With so many road matches, one does hope that the Cal Bears can maintain their level and earn some much-deserved respect on their frequent cross-country journeys this year.
Cal Men’s Soccer (2-4-1, 0-2 in Pac-12 play) drops two hard-fought matches in SoCal to open conference play
Cal 1, Pacific 2
Cal lost this match played at the home of the San Jose Earthquake. Cal jumped out to a quick lead on Wyatt Meyer’s 2nd goal of the season but conceded two goals by the 16th minute. That was all the scoring in this one.
Cal 0, No.21 San Diego State 2 (Pac-12 Opener)
The Pac-12 play is a home-and-home against each of the other 5 teams in the conference. Cal starts the season at the two Southern California foes, starting at San Diego State who earned a top-25 ranking.
After playing in the exhibition matches but not the non-conference matches, goalkeeper Collin Travasos returned to the pitch for the Bears, making three saves.
Cal 1, UCLA 2
Shoei Honda scored his 2nd goal of the season and the Bears had some chances to equalize despite UCLA dominating the scoring opportunities (they outshot the Bears 16 to 4) but just could not convert.
End of non-conference schedule thoughts:
Cal played better than their 2-2-1 non-conference record would indicate. Golden Bears got enough talent on each side of the field to win any given match, but all it takes is just one mistake here or there for another team to go ahead or equalize in soccer.
Evan Davila (2 goals, 3 assists) was the expected offensive standout for the Bears coming off his 2 goals and 1 assist season this spring. Jack Singer (3 goals, playing all over the field as needed) and Wyatt Myer (2 goals, 1 assist) are the unexpected players who took a leap forward this season.
Filling in for Travasos, Chris Gustini has played well for the Bears in the non-conference, again showing how Cal is essentially a Goalkeeper U.
On the latest Coaches’ poll, Washington (at No.3) and San Diego State (at No.14) are ranked. Oregon State, Stanford, and UCLA all received votes. Cal is the lone Pac-12 team to not be mentioned. Given the level of competition, Cal will really need to earn their spot back in the NCAA tournament.
Cal Golf - lots of new names
Both Men’s and Women’s golf has returned to action this fall already.
Cal Women’s placed 10th (out of 16 teams) at the Dick McGuire Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Freshman Jieming Yang and senior Katherine Zhu tied for the team lead with +4 for T26. BYU won by 27 shots over the Bears in the three rounds.
Cal Men placed 12th and 15th in their first two tournaments of the season from Hawaii and Illinois, respectively. Redshirt sophomore Costas Panay and freshman Simon Kwon were the top Bears for the two tournaments. All of Cal’s players are underclassmen and unfamiliar names to me. Nonetheless, I would not be shocked if one or two of them become the next Brandon Hagy or Michael Kim (both Cal alumni on the PGA Tour last year), but maybe not a Max Homa (3-time PGA winner, see below) nor Collin Morikawa (playing in his first Ryder Cup this weekend).
Cal Non-Revenue Alumni News
Sean Bryan again had a solid season on American Ninja Warrior
Cal Men’s Gymnastics alum Sean Bryan, AKA the "Papal Ninja”, had another great run on the latest season 13 of American Ninja Warrior which concluded last week. Bryan, who had competed annually since season 8, again made it to the National Final and got past Stage 1. The two-time Stage 2 finisher was one of many “ninjas” ousted on Stage 2 this year. Just a few years ago, ANW has finally awarded monetary prizes to each season’s top finisher, “last man standing”, even if he/she does not beat the entire course (which has only happened three times on the show), Bryan finished 2nd overall in season 10 during the first year of that prize change when he got to
Earlier this season, Bryan had an impressive run on the semifinal (ANW has again an altered format this season due to COVID). Check out the bulk of that run (he was able to finish this run) below, where the commentators even mentioned his Cal ties. Despite cutting his head on an obstacle, Bryan was able to power through the rest of the course while blood was dripping down his face.
While ANW has really skewed young in recent years, where two of the four ninjas who finished Stage 2 this year were 16 or younger in the first year where the age limit was lowered to 15, one would expect the 36-year-old Cal alum to possibly still have a couple more prime years to win the show.
Max Homa won his 3rd PGA Tournament - Fortinet Championship in Napa
With a strong final round where he shot 7-under, Max Homa won his third PGA tournament this past weekend, in the first official event of the new PGA season (the relatively recent PGA playoffs is still a relatively new thing with a lot of money on the line but not so much prestige yet).
Check out the highlights from Homa’s final round below, the eagle on hole 12 was particularly special.
Cal fans should be particularly thrilled that Homa was able to edge a Stanford alum in Maverick McNealy by one shot to win this tournament.
Alex Morgan records a hat trick for USWNT in Friendly vs. Paraguay
While the recent USWNT friendlies are mostly just a retirement tour for Carli Lloyd, who scored 5 goals against an out-classed Paraguay last week, Cal alum Alex Morgan was able to join the fun this week when she recorded a hat-trick in an 8-0 USA rout.
Check out the highlights of the match below. If the commentator’s voice sounds familiar, that’s is none other than former Cal mic woman and now budding broadcasting superstar Kate Scott on the call for Fox Sports One.
Alex Morgan now has 114 international goals in her career, passing her Orlando Pride teammate and Brazilian star Marta once again, on the all-time list for 8th.