No. 4 Cal Volleyball Heads To Midwest For Diet Coke Classic

Sept. 11, 2008

BERKELEY -

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The No. 4-ranked California volleyball team takes its show on the road this week as the Golden Bears travel to the Midwest for the Diet Coke Classic Volleyball Tournament. Hosted by No. 11 Minnesota, Cal will not only face its first ranked opponent of the season but must deal with two top-20 foes in a matter of three days. No. 16 Cal Poly sandwiches what would appear to be an easier match against unranked Notre Dame but the Fighting Irish took the Bears to five sets (winning the first two) in a neutral site bout last season. Minnesota may also be looking for a little bit of payback as the Bears played host to the Gophers at last season's Golden Bear Invitational and laid waste to a No. 11-ranked Minnesota squad with a 3-0 victory. The Mustangs also have a bone to pick with the Bears. Cal Poly hosted NCAA first and second round matches in 2006 but the Bears went through San Luis Obispo, Calif. and dropped two 3-1 victories, one of which ousted the Mustangs from the tournament.

THE FACTS: No. 4 Cal (5-0, 0-0 Pac-10) visits Minneapolis, Minn. for three matches in the Diet Coke Classic Volleyball Tournament hosted by the University of Minnesota. The No. 11-ranked host Gophers (5-1, 0-0 Big Ten) will get first crack at the Bears on Friday (Sept. 12) at 7:30 p.m. CT. Next, the Bears will tangle up with the Fighting Irish (3-3, 0-0 Big East) in a 5 p.m. CT match on Saturday (Sept. 13). Cal concludes the tournament with a noon CT match against No. 16 Cal Poly (4-2, 0-0 Big West) on Sunday (Sept. 14) before returning to the Golden State. Live stats and video will be available for the Cal vs. Minnesota match. Links can be found via CalBears.com

LAST WEEK: The Bears maintained their spotless record by winning three matches without dropping a set at the 2008 Golden Bear Invitational. Cal has now won 15 consecutive sets on its way to a perfect 5-0 overall record. Playing host to James Madison, DePaul and UC Riverside, the Bears took on the JMU Dukes in their first match and came away with a 3-0 win (25-12, 25-11, 25-20) due in large part to a truly efficient offensive performance. As a team, the Bears posted 10 service aces and a .431 attack percentage, getting 38 kills on just 72 attacks (7e) while holding the Dukes to just .056 (22k, 18e, 72att). Although the Blue Demons put up a strong fight, Cal was able to close out all three sets against DePaul in strong fashion, pulling away for a 25-21, 26-24, 25-19 win. The Bears were again the model of efficiency, getting 49 kills on 90 attacks (10e), buoyed by 18 kills from junior outside hitter Hana Cutura (0e, 27att). Cal finished up with a clean sweep by taking out the Highlanders 25-16, 25-21, 25-17; impressively holding UC Riverside to a .010 attack percentage (23k, 22e, 99att). Sophomore setter Carli Lloyd took home tournament MVP and Outstanding Setter honors once again (Lloyd did the same at the Cal Molten Classic) and junior defensive specialist/libero Kristen Kathan was named Defensive Standout for the second time this season. Joining Lloyd and Kathan on the all-tournament team were Cutura, senior outside hitter/middle hitter Morgan Beck and junior middle hitter Mindi Wiley.

NO. 11 MINNESOTA NOTES: The Gophers enter the weekend with a 5-1 overall record; the lone loss coming at the hands of a No. 11-ranked Hawai'i team in Honolulu. Since the blemish, Minnesota has bounced back with two 3-0 victories over Cincinnati and Wyoming. Three Gophers have already posted more than 50 kills each. Sophomore outside hitter Brook Dieter leads the team with 58 kills (3.22 kps) but sophomore middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer is right on her heels with 57 (2.71 kps). Senior outside Kyla Roehrig has also broken the 50-kill plateau, registering 54 to date (2.70 kps). In his 33rd year as a college volleyball head coach (12 at Minnesota), Mike Hebert is fast closing in on his 900th career win. He currently holds an 878-369 record. The Bears and the Gophers are tied at two wins each in the all-time series.

NOTRE DAME NOTES: The Fighting Irish are 3-3 with victories coming against IPFW, Nevada and Washington State. Notre Dame is led by junior outside hitter Christina Kaelin's 60 kills (27e, 167att, .198) and freshman defensive specialist/libero Frency Silva's 88 digs (4.19 dps). The Irish are coming off a 3-0 loss to Idaho in which they were only able to manage a .074 hitting percentage while committing nine service errors and six serve-receptions errors. The Vandals were able to put 15.0 total team blocks on Notre Dame to complete the sweep. Irish head coach Debbie Brown is a familiar face to the Pac-10; she was an All-American at USC and coached Arizona State. She is 410-152 in her 18th season with Notre Dame (24th overall). Cal leads the all-time series against Notre Dame, 2-1, last winning in five sets in 2007.

NO. 16 CAL POLY NOTES: The Mustangs have endured a rollercoaster of a season so far, going five sets in each of their first three matches, winning two and losing one. Next, Cal Poly had three 3-0 matches, coming out on top twice, but falling to No. 2 Nebraska. Three Mustangs have posted at least two double-double matches this season including last week's Big West Player of the Week senior opposite hitter Kylie Atherstone. Atherstone earned her 10th player of the week honor after putting up 3.78 kills and 1.11 aces per set (hitting .342) in the Paso Robles Marriott Invitational. Fellow senior Alicia Waller has three double-double outings along with junior setter Hailey Fithian who is averaging 10.4 aps. The Mustangs are 6-7 all-time against Cal and last fell to the Bears in an NCAA second round match in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

LLOYD NAMED PAC-10 VOLLEYBALL PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Sophomore setter Carli Lloyd was named the Pac-10 Volleyball Player of the Week for the week of Aug. 23-Aug. 31 after earning honors as the Outstanding Setter and MVP of the Cal Molten Classic. Lloyd posted 66 assists in two matches (11.0 aps) and added eight kills without an error, 10 digs and five blocks. The award is the first for a Cal player since Angie Pressey received it for the week of Aug. 28, 2006. It is the first such honor for Lloyd and the 23rd for Cal.

IN THE RANKS: Cal's No. 5 preseason ranking in the CBS College Sports Network/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll marks the eighth time in school history that the Bears have been ranked to open a season; the sixth time since Rich Feller became head coach in 1999. The Bears were ranked No. 12 at the start of 2007, No. 17 to open 2006, No. 19 in 2005, No. 10 in 2004 and No. 24 in 2003. Cal's two other preseason rankings came in 1989 (No. 9) and 1983 (No. 12). Setting a program-best mark in 2007, the Bears finished the season in the No. 4 spot after reaching the NCAA national semifinal, where they fell 3-0 to eventual NCAA champion Penn State. Cal has been ranked a total of 117 times since 1982.

2008 SCHEDULE: Cal will once again compete in what is arguably the most challenging collegiate women's volleyball conference in the nation - the Pacific-10. The Bears' 2008 schedule includes seven teams ranked in the CBS/AVCA preseason top 25 poll. St. John's and Arizona are among teams that also received votes in the initial poll. Five of the seven ranked teams are from the Pac-10, setting the Bears up for what looks to be at least 12 matches against top-25 ranked teams.

BEARS IN TV LAND: Cal is scheduled to appear live in five televised matches this season. The Bears' first live broadcast will originate from Haas Pavilion at 7 p.m. on Oct. 10 as they face Arizona State on Comcast Sports Net West. Fox Sports Net will show the Big Spike at Stanford on Oct. 19 (12:30 p.m. PT) and Comcast will show the Big Spike at Cal on Nov. 14 (7 p.m.). Comcast's crew will haunt the Haas sidelines on Halloween night (Oct. 31) as the Bears take on Washington State. And finally, USC's visit to Haas Pavilion on Nov. 22 will be carried by Fox Sports Net (5 p.m. PT) immediately following the Cal vs. Stanford football game.

THE PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE: The Pac-10 is home to six teams ranked in the most recent CBS/AVCA top 25 poll, led at No. 4 by the Golden Bears. Right behind Cal is UCLA at No. 5, USC at No. 6 and 2007 NCAA runner-up Stanford at No. 7. Joining the bunch are No. 9 Washington and No. 12 Oregon. Arizona also received votes in the most recent poll of coaches.

TOP OF THE PAC: The Bears hold the top AVCA ranking among Pac-10 teams and have the statistical resume to prove their worthiness. Cal currently leads the conference in hitting percentage, .349 (210k, 58e, 436att) and fittingly sits atop the league in kills per set at 14.00. The Bears also occupy the top spot in assists with 13.40 assists per set (201 total). Defensively, Cal is third in the Pac-10, holding opponents to a .105 attack percentage (138k, 92e, 437att) and fourth in blocks, averaging 2.73 bps (41 total).

CAPTAIN CRUNCH: Cal will benefit from the leadership of three captains this season. Seniors Kat Reilly, Morgan Beck and Am'ra Solomon will each take the roll of co-team captain for 2008. Reilly brings her experience as the president of the Cal Student-Athlete Advisory Council to the court while Beck carries three years of on-court familiarity. Solomon's passion for the game and the team are apparent when she takes the court, often leading the team in cheers.

OUTSIDE INFLUENCE: The Bears return several weapons at the outside hitter position in 2008, including All-American junior Hana Cutura. Cutura leads the team in total kills with 56 (14e, 109att, .385) and kills per set (4.00 kps). She also does her share of work on defense, picking up 27 digs thus far (1.93 dps). Senior outside hitter/middle hitter Morgan Beck has logged 35 kills (2.33 kps) and 13 total blocks (1.13 bps) after earning All-Pac-10 honorable mention in 2007. Senior Am'ra Solomon has put down 26 kills (2.17 kps) with a .269 attack percentage (8e, 67att). Solomon netted 80 kills (2.58 kps) a year ago in limited action. The Bears also add freshman Tarah Murrey (23k, 11e, 43att, .279) to the lineup this season.

MIDDLE METTLE: In her final season with the Bears, senior middle hitter Kat Reilly will serve as one of three team captains. Reilly appeared in just 85 sets last year, protecting her knee after recovering from an injury sustained as a freshman. Last season, Reilly logged 147 kills and hit for .325 (44e, 317att), the sixth-best single season output by a Bear. She also ranked second on the team a year ago with a 1.36 bps average, putting up a total of 116 blocks. This season, Reilly has logged 14 kills (1.17 kps) in limited time (7e, 50att, .175) and 13 total blocks (1.08 bps).

DIGGING DEEP: Junior defensive specialist/libero Kristen Kathan sits eighth among Pac-10 players in digs per set with 3.33 dps (50 in 15 sets). Last year, Kathan registered the ninth-best single-season mark for digs at Cal as a sophomore in 2007 with 414 (3.70 dps). Kathan had a career-high 29 digs at USC, Oct. 26, and her digs per set average was good for ninth-best among Pac-10 players last season.

SETTING THE SCENE: Sophomore setter Carli Lloyd is averaging a Pac-10 best 11.53 aps (173 assists) but more importantly, has the Bears on top of the conference with a 12.40 aps mark. A 2007 Pac-10 All-Freshman selection, Lloyd posted 1,550 assists (12.81 dps) last year, and earned NCAA Wisconsin Regional all-tournament team status for her impressive postseason play. In addition to setting her teammates up, Lloyd also put down 93 kills and added 111 total blocks as a freshman.

WILD AND WILEY: Junior middle hitter Mindi Wiley holds top marks for hitting percentage among Bears (third in the Pac-10) attacking at a .404 clip (28k, 7e, 52att). She also posted a career-high three solo blocks against UC Riverside (Sept. 6) and has reached a career-high seven total blocks on two occasions this season. Wiley had the eighth-best single season output for hitting percentage in 2007, registering a mark of .307 (85k, 30e, 179att). Wiley shared time in the middle with since-departed Ellen Orchard and senior Kat Reilly but still managed to average 1.52 kps and put up 74 total blocks (1.32 bps) as a sophomore.

FRESH FACES: The Bears welcome five newcomers to the team this year. Topping the list is phenom outside hitter Tarah Murrey. Murrey comes to Cal as one of 2007's most highly sought-after high school recruits in the country. Her impressive resume includes Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 honors and recognition as the 2008 Gatorade California Player of the Year. Also a Fab 50 selection, freshman middle hitter Shannon Hawari looks to step in and battle for immediate playing time. Joining Murrey and Hawari in the freshman class are setter/defensive specialist Ashley Roe, setter Kristin Obermeyer and defensive specialist/libero Katherine Gorman.

ADVENTURES WITH AM'RA: Senior outside hitter Am'ra Solomon will be authoring a photo-journal during each of Cal's road trips this season. The pictorial essays will be a behind-the-scenes look at the 2008 Golden Bears and will receive updates the Monday following each road trip. Be sure to check the volleyball home page on CalBears.com for the latest shots off of Am'ra's camera.

NATIONAL BECKONING: Senior outside hitter/middle hitter Morgan Beck spent the 2008 spring semester away from the Berkeley campus to be with the USA Women's Indoor Volleyball team in Colorado Springs, Colo. Along with since-departed Angie Pressey, Beck trained with the team under the direction of head coach 'Jenny' Lang Ping. This summer, the USA Women's Indoor Volleyball team won the silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

PRESIDENTIAL PRECEDENCE: Senior middle hitter Kat Reilly serves as president of the Cal Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). SAAC is a collaboration of student-athletes representing all intercollegiate teams competing for the University of California, Berkeley. The mission of SAAC is to bring the student-athlete community together; provide feedback to the athletic administration on proposed conference and NCAA legislation; foster student-athlete welfare; create relationships between student-athletes and the community by organizing community service efforts and raising funds for various causes; and to become a sounding board for the athletic administration by generating a student-athlete voice where concerns are addressed.

PASSING ON PIROUETTES: Hailing from Zagreb, Croatia, junior outside hitter Hana Cutura wasn't always the menacing volleyball force the Bears have come to know. The 6-4 outside hitter used to be a ballet dancer as a young girl but her natural gift for volleyball eventually shoved Nutcracker dreams aside. Last year, Cutura's play in the postseason earned her honors as the NCAA Wisconsin Regional MVP, an achievement her parents are quite proud of. Cutura's father, Zoran is a former Olympic basketball star for Yugoslavia while her mother, Gordana, is a former member of the Croatian National Volleyball team.

CALIFORNIA GLADIATOR: Sophomore setter Carli Lloyd credits her athleticism to the training she received from uncle and coach Galen Tomlinson. Tomlinson, a former volleyball coach at Fallbrook Union High School, is better known in some circles as Turbo from the 1980's television series, 'American Gladiators.'

FAMILY TRACK RECORD: Sophomore defensive specialist/libero Meagan Schmitt seems destined to have become a Cal athlete. Both her parents, Tom and Laura attended Cal and were cross country and track and field athletes for the Bears. Her uncle, John Starrett also starred as a rower for the Bears.

TEXAS TWO-STEP: The Cal roster will once again feature two players from the great state of Texas. With the departure of Ellen Orchard (Houston, Texas), the Bears added another middle hitter in freshman Shannon Hawari to the lineup. Hawari arrives in Berkeley from Plano, Texas, a former player at Plano West High School. Hawari joins senior Kat Reilly, who comes from Plano East High School.

SISTER, SISTER: Freshman outside hitter Tarah Murrey comes from a family of athletes, one of which is older sister, Brittney. The elder Murrey is the starting setter for UC Riverside. Cal faced the Highlanders in what became a family affair at Haas Pavilion on Sept. 6 in the Golden Bear Invitational. Youth beat out experience as Cal's Murrey helped the Bears to a 3-0 win to close out the tournament crown.

STORMIN' GORMANS: Freshman defensive specialist/libero Katherine Gorman's older brother Richard is a junior designated hitter on the Cal baseball team.

McSHANE THE TRAIN: This past June, assistant coach Matt McShane joined over 2,800 bike riders on a seven-day, 545-mile trek from San Francisco to Los Angeles as a part of the 2008 AIDS/LifeCycle Ride benefiting HIV/AIDS services. Founded in 2002, AIDS/LifeCycle is co-produced by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center and is designed to advance their shared interests to end the pandemic and human suffering caused by AIDS through raising funds and social awareness. In 2008, the ride raised over $11.6 million dollars.

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