No. 7 California Volleyball Looks to Finish Strong in Oregon

Nov. 24, 2008

BERKELEY, Calif. -

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This Week:

at Oregon StateWednesday, Nov. 26 4:30 p.m. PTGill Coliseum | Corvallis, Ore.

at No. 8 OregonFriday, Nov. 28 7 p.m. PTMcArthur Court | Eugene, Ore.

The No. 7-ranked California volleyball team heads to the Beaver State to close out the regular season with matches sandwiching the Thanksgiving holiday against Oregon State (Nov. 26) and No. 8 Oregon (Nov. 28). The Golden Bears hope to finish strong after nabbing two big wins against No. 10 UCLA and No. 11 USC at home this weekend. The last time Cal tangled with the Ducks and the Beavers in Berkeley, the Bears made short work of their opponents by claiming two 3-0 sweeps to open Pac-10 play. Now on the other end of the conference schedule, Cal has already tied the previous school record for most conference wins in a season with 12. The Bears reached the 12-win mark just three other times in school history; most recently as last season, and in 2003 prior to that. Cal also won 12 conference matches in 1982 under the direction of Chris Stanley when the Bears went 12-2 to secure the first NorPac conference championship; Cal's only volleyball conference title. Since enduring a short losing slide, the Bears have bounced back to win three of their last four matches entering the weekend.

THE FACTS: No. 7 Cal (22-5, 12-4 Pac-10) completes the regular season with two road matches in the Beaver State. The Bears will meet Oregon State (14-15, 3-13 Pac-10) in a 4:30 p.m. PT match on Wednesday, Nov. 26 at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore. and then travel up the interstate to take on No. 8 Oregon (22-7, 10-6 Pac-10) in a 7 p.m. match on Friday, Nov. 28 at McArthur Court in Eugene, Ore. Live statistics are available for each match via links at www.goducks.com and www.osubeavers.com.

NCAA TOURNAMENT SELECTION SHOW: ESPNU will air the 2008 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship selection show live at 7 p.m. PT on Sunday, Nov. 30. The NCAA will announce the field of 64 teams selected to participate in this year's national championship tournament and reveal the 16 first and second round competition sites. Please check your local listings for times and availability.

LAST WEEK: In a key Pac-10 weekend, the Bears hosted then No. 9-ranked UCLA and then No. 10-ranked USC in back-to-back matches. Much like the previous three matches had gone, the Bears and Bruins took the court for a fifth set to decide a victor. Cal emerged with a 3-2 victory (17-25, 26-24, 27-25, 26-28, 15-13) to defeat UCLA for the second time this season; the first season sweep of the Bruins in Cal history. Bruin sophomore outside hitter Ali Daley led her team with 19 kills (7e, 65att, .185) and 28 digs but it was not nearly enough as the Bears plugged away to get the win. Cal's outside hitters did a number on the Bruins as junior Hana Cutura led all players with a season-high 26 kills (10e, .235) and a career-high 68 attacks. Cutura also put up 13 digs and four blocks against the Bruins, paving the way for freshman outside Tarah Murrey who notched career marks in kills with 21 and attacks with 50 as well as digs with 19. The Bears attacked a season-high 201 times and dug up a season-best 87 balls against UCLA. The next night, Cal honored its seniors in pre-match ceremonies before promptly being manhandled in the first set of play against the Women of Troy. Down 24-17 in the second set, the Bears sprang a big rally to take a 25-24 lead before claiming the second set, 30-28. Out of the break, Cal finished things off with a 25-17 score in the third and then an incredible 25-6 fourth set to win, 3-1. Cutura led all players once again with 22 kills (5e, 40att, .425) and had 10 digs to log her 10th double-double of the season. Sophomore setter Carli Lloyd also had her 10th double-double as she led all players with 49 assists and added 12 digs against the Trojans. Murrey also had a big match for the second night in a row as she posted 14 kills (3e, 27att, .407). USC's redshirt junior outside hitter Jessica Gysin led her team with 13 kills (8e, 44att, .114) and 10 digs but Cal stifled the USC attack as it forced the Trojans into hitting a negative .152 in the fourth set (6k, 11e, 33att) and in the meantime blasted away with 12 kills on 19 attacks without an error (.632).

OREGON STATE NOTES: The Beavers (14-15, 3-13 Pac-10) have lost eight consecutive matches and have fallen in 10 of their last 12 matches since cracking the AVCA top 25. Two of Oregon State's three conference wins have come against quality opponents though, as the Beavers took out a No. 4-ranked USC team at home on Oct. 3 and then dropped a 3-0 victory on Arizona on Oct. 24. Junior outside hitter Rachel Rourke leads the Beavers on offense with 4.42 kps (second in the Pac-10 behind Hana Cutura) and is attacking at a .249 rate; second highest for Oregon State. Rourke also follows Cutura in the second spot among Pac-10 players for most points per set at 4.87 pps. Senior libero Ashley Evans leads the team in digs at 3.66 dps and is 10th in the conference. Junior setter Camilly Ah-Hoy is eighth in assists in the Pac-10, averaging 10.24 aps. As a team, the Beavers rank seventh or lower in the conference in all but one statistical category; service aces. Oregon State earns 1.09 saps, fifth in the Pac-10 with four players with at least 18 aces this season. The last time Cal and Oregon State met on Sept. 28, the Bears tore the Beaver dam apart with a 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-15) win in Berkeley. The victory moved Cal to a 36-17 advantage in the all-time series record.

NO. 8 OREGON NOTES: The Ducks (22-7, 10-6 Pac-10) have lost two of their last three matches; one a 3-1 defeat at home to No. 5 Washington and the other, in an upset on the road to Arizona. After opening the Pac-10 with two losses in the Bay Area, Oregon hosted UCLA and USC and came away with two impressive victories, vaulting them over the Bruins and Trojans in the polls. Since, the Ducks have lost just four more times, twice to Washington and once to USC. Oregon leads the Pac-10 in service aces, averaging 1.37 saps and is second only to Cal in kills with 14.68 kps (sixth in the nation). Junior middle blocker Neticia Enesi leads the team in hitting percentage (.416, third Pac-10, sixth nationally) and blocks (1.21 bps, third Pac-10) while senior middle Kristen Forristall trails right behind with a .312 hitting percentage (ninth Pac-10) and 1.06 bps (seventh Pac-10). Senior libero Katie Swoboda leads the conference in digs and is 22nd in the nation, averaging 5.06 dps. Junior middle blocker Nevena Djordjevic took over the setting duties for sophomore Rachel Morris and is third in the Pac-10 with 11.57 aps (10th in the country). The majority of Djordjevic's sets go the direction of senior outside hitter Gorana Maricic, who is averaging 4.17 kps (fourth Pac-10). The Bears opened the conference season with the Ducks and blew them out of the water, taking a 3-0 win, 25-20, 25-15, 25-15. Cal now holds a 46-13 all-time record against the Ducks.

POLL POSITION: Cal's No. 5 preseason ranking in the Bison/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll marked the eighth time in school history that the Bears were ranked to open a season; the sixth 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's highest regular season ranking was recorded several times this season as the Bears reached No. 4 for several weeks. Since 1982, the Bears have been ranked a total of 128 times.

BEARS IN TV LAND: Cal appeared live in five televised matches this season, the last of which was the USC match on Nov. 22, broadcast by Fox Sports Net. Comcast SportsNet California showed Cal's match against Stanford in the Big Spike on Nov. 14 and haunted the Haas sidelines on Halloween night (Oct. 31) as the Bears defeated Washington State, 3-1. Comcast also aired the Bears' Dig for the Cure match against Arizona State on Oct. 10. FSN also showed the Cal's historic 3-1 victory at Stanford (Oct. 19). Cal also appeared in a local telecast on the road at Washington Oct. 3. Cal is 5-1 in televised matches.

SUPER STREAKS: Cal's streak of 29 straight sets without a loss between Sept. 14 and Oct. 19 set a new school record, breaking the old record of 27 held by the 2002 squad. The Bears also had the second-longest match winning streak in school history this season, winning 13 consecutive matches between Sept. 13 and Oct. 24. In addition, Cal set a new school record by winning eight consecutive Pac-10 matches. This Cal team also owns the record for most consecutive matches won at home, 16 (from Oct. 11, 2007 through Oct. 31, 2008).

RACKIN' UP THE REWARDS: Several Cal players received recognition for their outstanding play in preseason tournaments this season; at the Cal Molten Classic, sophomore setter Carli Lloyd took home MVP honors, joined by junior libero Kristen Kathan as the defensive standout and junior outside hitter Hana Cutura on the all-tournament team. At the Golden Bear Invitational, Lloyd once again garnered MVP honors while Kathan repeated as the defensive standout. This time, the pair was joined not only by Cutura, but senior outside hitter/middle hitter Morgan Beck and junior middle hitter Mindi Wiley. At the Diet Coke Classic in Minneapolis, Minn., Lloyd and Cutura earned spots on the all-tournament team. And at the Crowne Plaza Volleyball Classic in Fullerton, Calif., Cutura took home MVP honors, joined by senior outside hitter Am'ra Solomon and Lloyd on the all-tournament team.

THE PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE: Cal competes in what is arguably the toughest women's collegiate volleyball conference, the Pac-10. Six teams ranked in the most recent Bison/AVCA top 25 poll reside in the Pac-10 conference with all six in the top 11. 2007 NCAA runner-up Stanford tops the group at No. 2 with Washington checking in at No. 5. Cal sits at No. 7 followed by No. 8 Oregon, No. 10 UCLA and No. 11 USC. Oregon State made its first appearance in the polls since 1996 earlier this year and Arizona made its first appearance of the season in the top 25 several weeks ago. Both have since exited the poll. With San Francisco (No. 24), Cal Poly, and Minnesota (No. 12) also cracking the lineup, and St. John's holding a position earlier this year, the Bears have faced 16 teams that either currently are or at one point were ranked in the top 25.

DIG FOR THE CURE: During the month of October, Pac-10 volleyball teams joined forces to help raise awareness about breast cancer during home matches. Among the promotional events, teams wore pink accessories, used pink game balls for the matches and tossed pink mini volleyballs into the stands. The Bears held Dig for the Cure on Oct. 10 when it hosted Arizona State at Haas Pavilion. On the road, Cal also participated in 'Pink' matches when it visited Stanford (Oct. 19), UCLA (Oct. 24), and USC (Oct. 25).

BEARS IN THE PAC-10 RANKS: Cal is in the top five in five statistical categories in the Pac-10. The Bears lead the conference in assists (14.01 aps) and kills (15.05 kps). Cal is second in opponent hitting percentage (.181) and third in hitting percentage (.290). Finally, the Bears are fourth in service aces (1.16 saps) and sixth in blocks (2.46 bps). Individually, junior outside hitter Hana Cutura is first in the conference in kills (4.45 kps) and points (5.13 pps). She is also second in service aces (0.34 saps). Junior libero Kristen Kathan is fourth in digs (4.27 dps) and sixth in service aces (0.26). Sophomore setter Carli Lloyd is second in assists with 12.09 aps and freshman middle hitter Shannon Hawari (.411) is fourth in the conference in hitting percentage.

NATIONAL N' THEM: The Bears hold several distinctions among the country's top teams including third in assists with 14.01 aps. As a byproduct, the Bears rank second in the country in kills with 15.05 kps. Valparaiso leads all teams with a 15.24 kps average. Cal's .290 hitting percentage ranks seventh in the country behind Pac-10 leaders, Stanford (.315), Washington (.300) and NCAA leader, Penn State at No. 1 (.396). Defensively, the Bears are averaging 2.46 bps, 39th among NCAA division I teams; one of six Pac-10 teams in the top 40 in that statistical category. Individually, sophomore setter Carli Lloyd is third in the country with 12.09 aps and junior outside Hana Cutura is 11th nationally in kills at 4.45 kps.

CAPTAIN CRUNCH: Cal benefits from the leadership of three captains this season. Seniors Kat Reilly, Morgan Beck and Am'ra Solomon each hold 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 returned several weapons at the outside hitter position from a squad that made an appearance in the NCAA semifinal, including All-American junior Hana Cutura. Cutura leads the team in total kills with 423 (138e, 924att, .308) and kills per set (4.45 kps). She also does her share of work on defense, picking up 233 digs thus far (2.45 dps). Senior outside hitter/middle hitter Morgan Beck has logged 102 kills (1.76 kps) and 28 total blocks (0.48 bps) despite playing a limited role due to injury. Beck earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention in 2006 and 2007. Senior Am'ra Solomon has made huge contributions, putting down 262 kills (3.01 kps, second on the team) with a .294 attack percentage (74e, 640att). Solomon netted 80 kills (2.58 kps) a year ago in limited action. The Bears also added the services of freshman Tarah Murrey (225k, 103e, 523att, .233) to the lineup this season.

FRESH FACES: The Bears welcomed five newcomers to the team this year. Topping the list is phenom outside hitter Tarah Murrey. Murrey came 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 has stepped 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.

HOME, SWEET, HOME: There's no place like home and these Bears don't come to Haas Pavilion to hibernate. Cal successfully defended its home court advantage for a school-record 16 consecutive matches; a run that dated back to a 3-2 win over Washington on Oct. 11, 2007 and ended against with a loss to the Huskies on Nov. 2, 2008. The previous longest home winning streak lasted 13 matches from Oct. 28, 2005 through Oct. 19, 2006. This season, Cal went 12-2 in all matches at Haas Pavilion.

1,000K CLUB: Two Golden Bears have surpassed the 1,000 kill mark in their careers. Junior outside hitter Hana Cutura was the first to do so, hitting the 1,000 kill milestone on the head against Central Connecticut State Sept. 19 at the Crowne Plaza Volleyball Classic in Fullerton, Calif. Cutura is seventh in all-time career kills at Cal with 1,300 and will likely threaten the fourth-place position before the season is over. Senior outside hitter/middle hitter Morgan Beck got her 1,000th kill against Oregon State Sept. 28. Beck now has 1,015 career kills and holds the ninth-place spot all-time at Cal in total blocks with 324.

MEET THE BEAR CUBS: Four prep volleyball players signed National Letters of Intent to play for the Golden Bears in 2009 during the early signing period (Nov. 12-19). Setter Elly Barrett (Westlake HS/Austin, Texas), middle blocker Katherine Brown (St. Francis HS/Mountain View, Calif.), middle blocker Tia Gaffen (Wayzata HS/Plymouth, Minn.) and middle blocker Correy Johnson (Lake Howell HS/Winter Park, Fla.). Barrett and Johnson were each honored with selections to the AVCA Under Armour High School All-American first team. Gaffen received second-team notice. All four players were PrepVolleyball.com Top 50 senior aces in 2008; Barrett was No. 12 (regarded as the top setter in the nation), Brown was No. 48, Gaffen was No. 47 and Johnson was No. 14.

#1: SETTING THE SCENE: Sophomore setter Carli Lloyd is averaging 12.09 aps (1,161 assists), second in the Pac-10 (third nationally), but more importantly, she has the Bears on top of the conference with a 14.01 aps mark (also third nationally). 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. Lloyd broke the 2,000 assist mark against Oregon on Sept. 26, becoming just the sixth player in Cal history to break that plateau. Her 2,711 assists are already good for fifth among all-time career leaders at Cal. Lloyd's stellar play netted her all-tournament honors in all four of Cal's preseason tourney's including two MVP awards (Cal Molten Classic and Golden Bear Invitational), Pac-10 Player of the Week award twice and most recently, an AVCA National Player of the Week honor.

#1: 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.'

#1: TRIPLE PLAY: Sophomore setter Carli Lloyd was named the Sports Imports/AVCA Division I National Player of the Week on Oct. 20, for her efforts in a 3-1 victory against Stanford, Oct. 19. She was also named Pac-10 Player of the Week for the second time this season for the week of Oct. 13-19, after earning honors for the week of Aug. 23-Aug. 31. In addition, Lloyd received the Cal Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week award to complete a trifecta of awards and honors. She is the first Cal player since Angie Pressey to receive Pac-10 (Aug. 28, 2006) and the first player since Mia Jerkov (2003) to earn Pac-10 Player of the Week honors twice in one season.

#2: DIGGING DEEP: Junior defensive specialist/libero Kristen Kathan sits in fourth place among Pac-10 players in digs per set with 4.27 dps (410 in 96 sets). Last year, Kathan registered the ninth-best single-season mark for digs at Cal as a sophomore with 414 (3.70 dps). Kathan had a career-high 29 digs at USC, Oct. 26, 2007 and her digs per set average was good for ninth-best among Pac-10 players last season. This season, Kathan put up a season-high 23 balls twice, last at UCLA, Oct. 24 and has moved into the 10th-place position in single-season digs.

#3: 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.

#4: 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.

#4: TARAH-RIZING THE COURT: Freshman outside hitter Tarah Murrey has appeared in every match for the Bears, playing in 95 of 96 sets. She is third on the team in kills, averaging 2.37 kps and puts up 1.60 digs every set. The 6-3 El Cerrito, Calif. native has come of age in recent matches, earning career-high marks with 21 kills, 19 digs, and 50 attacks against UCLA on Nov. 21.

#7: ROE, ROE, ROE YOUR BOAT: Freshman setter/defensive specialist Ashley Roe lists writing poetry and lyrics among her favorite off-court activities. She can often be heard singing or rapping ad-lib lyrics to familiar melodies. She has appeared in three matches for the Bears, logging a service ace on her first collegiate play against Minnesota (Sept. 12) and logged her first career assist on a kill from Hana Cutura against Central Connecticut State Sept. 19.

#8: 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 are a behind-the-scenes look at the 2008 Golden Bears and will receive updates the Monday following each road trip. Solomon celebrated her second road-trip of the year with a spot on the Crowne Plaza All-Tournament team. Be sure to check the volleyball home page on CalBears.com for the latest shots off of Am'ra's camera.

#8: SHE AM WHAT SHE AM: Senior outside hitter Am'ra Solomon has quietly become one of the Bears' go-to players on the outside. Her 3.01 kills per set are good for second on the team behind team leader junior Hana Cutura. Solomon's sure hand has netted her a .294 attack percentage (262k, 74e, 640att). She set new career highs in attacks at UCLA Oct. 24, with 49; and recorded a new career-high in kills with 20 at Arizona Nov. 7. She also set career high numbers in digs and blocks this season, playing in a heavily saturated front row.

#9: OBI WAN KENOBERMEYER: Freshman setter Kristin Obermeyer might not be able to play any Jedi mind-tricks on opponents but she has the resume to prove her academic aptitude as one of the valedictorians at Westmont High School in Campbell, Calif. She has appeared in three matches for Cal and had her first assist against DePaul Sept. 6; she later logged a career-high five assists against Central Connecticut State Sept. 19 at the Crowne Plaza Volleyball Classic in Fullerton, Calif.

#10: 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, slowed by injury, Reilly has logged 38 kills (0.81 kps) in limited time (20e, 117att, .154) and 43 total blocks (0.91 bps).

#10: PRESIDENTIAL PRECEDENCE: Kat Reilly serves as president of the Cal Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), a collaboration of student-athletes representing all teams competing for the University of California, Berkeley. SAAC's mission is to bring the student-athlete community together; provide feedback to the athletic administration on 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.

#14: 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.

#14: NO HAWARIAN ISLAND VACATION: Freshman middle hitter Shannon Hawari has worked her way into the California starting lineup, logging 103 kills on 209 attacks with just 19 errors all season. Her .402 attack percentage is fourth among all Pac-10 players. She has also racked up a total of 55 blocks (0.81 bps), second on the team. Hawari had a breakout match at USC Oct. 25 where she tallied a career-high 15 kills on 22 attacks. When she does decide to take a break, she would like to vacation to Paris, France.

#17: STORMIN' GORMANS: Freshman defensive specialist/libero Katherine Gorman's older brother Richard is a junior designated hitter on the Cal baseball team. With 14 home volleyball matches and 30 home baseball games, Golden Bear sports will be a family affair for the Gorman household. Gorman has appeared in 11 of Cal's matches this year, recording her first digs in a match at Cal State Fullerton Sept. 20 and a career-high three digs at USC on Oct. 25.

#21: WILD AND WILEY: Junior middle hitter Mindi Wiley is attacking at a .300 clip (200k, 76e, 413att). She put up a career-high 15 kills and 25 attacks at UCLA Oct. 24 (matched with 25 attacks vs. UCLA on Nov. 21) and posted a career-high three solo blocks against UC Riverside Sept. 6. She has also recorded a career-high eight total blocks twice this season, first against San Francisco Sept. 20 and again against Oregon Sept. 26. The first service aces of Wiley's career came against Arizona (Oct. 11) and Arizona State (Oct. 10) this season. Wiley had Cal's eighth-best single season output for hitting percentage in 2007, registering a mark of .307 (85k, 30e, 179att). As a sophomore, 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).

#26: 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.

#26: SUPER HANA: Junior outside hitter Hana Cutura leads the Pac-10 in kills per set with a 4.45 kps average. She has also contributed to the Cal defense by putting in 2.45 digs per set. Her 5.13 points per set is tops in the conference and she leads the Bears in service aces with 32 (0.34, second in the Pac-10). Cutura's dominance at the net and presence in the back row have earned her 10 double-double matches this season.

#44: 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. Schmitt put up a career-high three service aces at Arizona Nov. 7 and later recorded a career-high 11 digs against UCLA on Nov. 21.

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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