2007 Cal Volleyball Outlook
Aug. 10, 2007
BERKELEY, CALIF. - Here come the Golden Bears...again.
Having established itself as one of the country's premier volleyball programs the last five years, Rich Feller's 2007 squad is ready to extend an impressive postseason streak with a talented nucleus of returnees - including a dynamic All-American, two All-Pac-10 performers, and one of the nation's best young outside hitters.
Senior captains Angie Pressey and Ellen Orchard, junior Morgan Beck and sophomore Hana Cutura are just a few of the players who highlight this year's edition of Cal volleyball. These standouts will be joined by several other top performers, including four newcomers, who plan on guiding the Bears to a sixth-straight NCAA postseason appearance. Cal is one of five Pac-10 teams to make appearances in each of the last five NCAA Tournaments and in 2006 finished ranked 13th in the final AVCA poll.
'We will have incredible team leadership this year,' said Feller, who last season led Cal to the NCAA round of 16 for the second time in school history. 'Senior captains Angie and Ellen have started most of their careers and have led us to three-straight NCAAs. Morgan was extremely valuable for us as both an outside and middle hitter last year, and Hana is definitely one of the top young hitters in college volleyball. In addition, we have an exceptional group of players ready to contribute to our team's success.'
The Bears do showcase one of the nation's most explosive outside hitters in Pressey. Only 5-8, Pressey has a 35-inch vertical leap that allows her to successfully hit over much taller opponents. Despite her height, she holds the distinction of being the first three-time All-Pac-10 selection in school history and last season was All-Pacific Region and a second-team All-American in both the AVCA and Volleyball magazine.
Pressey, who hails from Heathrow, Fla., led Cal with 487 kills last season and was third in the Pac-10 with 4.39 kills per game. She was also fifth in the conference in points (551.0) and third on the team with 300 digs. Pressey's 1,262 career kills are the second-most among active Pac-10 players and already the sixth on the Bears' all-time list. Last season, she was the MVP of both the Molten Classic and the Golden Bear Invitational and has been all-tournament in six consecutive tournament competitions.
Fellow senior captain Orchard is also among Cal's all-time greats. After a stellar junior season in which she was named honorable mention All-Pac-10, the 6-3 middle hitter from Houston, Texas, is now second in school history with a .285 career hitting percentage and eighth with 312 total blocks. Orchard anchored the Bears' middle in 2006, finishing third in the conference with 168 blocks (1.51 blocks per game) - the second-most single-season blocks in school history. She also racked up 301 kills and paced Cal with 30 service aces and a .305 hitting percentage.
Outside hitter/middle hitter Beck was another key player for the Bears last season, earning honorable mention All-Pac-10 accolades after finishing second on the team and eighth in the Pac-10 with 127 blocks (1.15pg), and third on the squad with 306 kills. What did not show up on the stat sheet was how the 6-3 standout from Coto de Caza filled in as middle hitter after early-season injuries to other players. Beck might move back to outside hitter in 2007, where she was a member of the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team in 2005, or continue showing her versatility in the middle.
Last year Cutura burst into the college volleyball scene in impressive fashion. The powerful 6-3 outside hitter from Zagreb, Croatia had arguably the greatest debut in Cal volleyball history when she was Co-MVP with Angie Pressey in the season-opening Cal Molten Classic, and was the MVP of the Florida International Invitational. Cutura went on to finish second on the team with 392 kills and 455.5 points, and was named to the 2006 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team - the sixth straight year the Bears have had a member of the conference's All-Freshman squad. Cutura shined in the Cal's NCAA victories over LSU and Cal Poly, pacing the Bears with 15 kills and 18 kills, respectively.
Juniors Bryte Nielson and Am'ra Solomon should also figure into Cal's playing rotation this season. Nielson is in contention for the Bears' starting setting duties, helping replace the school's all-time career assist leader (5,777) Samantha Carter. Entering her third year in the program and playing well last spring, the 5-11 setter from Saratoga has recorded 57 assists and 62 digs in 33 career matches. Nielson showed her potential when she came off the bench against Washington last season and recorded a career-high 24 assists against the 2005 national champion Huskies. Solomon has also shown glimpses of her abilities as the 6-1 outside hitter from Los Angeles recorded 15 kills in eight matches last season, and had a career-high 13 kills at Arizona State as a redshirt freshman in 2005.
Along with Cutura Cal's sophomore class, which was rated the nation's third-best freshman class entering the 2006 campaign, includes Kristen Kathan, Cat Dailey, Mindi Wiley and Kat Reilly. Kathan, a 5-6 defensive specialist from Moraga, is a talented back row player who is in contention to replace the Bears' all-time dig leader (1,810), Jillian Davis, as Cal's starting libero. She tallied 118 digs in 29 matches for the Bears as a true freshman in 2006.
The Cal coaches are excited about the abilities of Dailey and Wiley as well. Both players were slowed by injuries as true freshmen, but recovered to be contributors. Dailey, a 6-1 outside hitter from Newport Beach, missed the first 12 matches of the season with a broken little finger in her left hand. She rebounded to notch 19 kills and 17 digs in her first collegiate against Arizona State and went on to have 49 kills, seven service aces and 90 digs in 20 matches. Wiley, a 6-3 middle hitter from Sonoma, sat out the first 19 matches of 2006 with a broken right thumb, but came back to record 19 kills with a .289 hitting percentage in nine matches, including a season-high nine kills with no errors in 13 attempts at Oregon State.
Another returnee in the mix for starting duties is 6-2 middle hitter Kat Reilly, who redshirted in 2006. Reilly, from Plano, Texas, was slated to be one of the Bears' regular middle hitters last season until suffering an injury to her left knee in preseason practice. Now 100 percent healthy, she could be a key performer for Cal after hitting .449 with 25 kills in 12 matches as a true freshman in 2005.
The Bears' four freshmen are also in position to play important roles for the Bears in 2007. Cal's newcomers include Carli Lloyd, a 5-11 setter from Bonsall; Caitlyn Murphy, a 5-10 defensive specialist/libero/outside hitter from Granite Bay; Meagan Schmitt, a 5-9 defensive specialist/libero from Kentfield and Maria Zizka, a 5-9 setter from Oakland.
Lloyd comes to the Bears with impressive credentials out of Fallbrook Union High School, where she was one of the nation's top high school setters and the 2006-07 CIF Player of the Year. Also an outstanding track and field athlete, Lloyd competed in the 110-meter hurdles and the long jump as a prep athlete. A four-year member of Volleyball magazine's Fab 50, she enters Cal competing with junior Bryte Nielson for the privilege/challenge of replacing four-year starter Carter as the Bears' primary setter.
Murphy out of Granite Bay High School, and Schmitt from Redwood High School, will both be vying for playing time as back row specialists in their first year with the Bears, while Zizka, from Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High School, adds depth to Cal's setter position.
'We will have a different look this year,' said Feller. 'Our team leaders will be our hitters, as opposed to a setter (Carter) and a libero (Davis) like in the past. We are going to miss Sam and Jill, but we have a lot of confidence in our players and feel the change will be good for our squad. We are ready to continue making our mark on the national stage. This year, we are setting an even loftier goal. We are pushing to go further into the NCAA Tournament than any other Cal team in school history.'
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