Battle of the Bears Awaits Cal in Gainesville Regional Semifinal
Dec. 8, 2009
BERKELEY - The ninth-seeded Golden Bears make their fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA regional semifinal as they prepare to face upset-minded Baylor of the Big 12 Conference in the Gainesville Regional of the 2009 NCAA Div. I Women's Volleyball Championship. Cal holds a 23-16 record in 13 trips to the postseason and has maintained a perfect 8-0 record in first-round matches under head coach Rich Feller. The Bears are in a familiar position as they faced Iowa State of the Big 12 in the round of 16 two years ago (2007) with defending NCAA champion Nebraska on the other side of the Wisconsin Regional bracket. Cal upset the Cornhuskers and went all the way to the national semifinal that year; the best finish in program history. As the newly anointed Pac-10 Player of the Year, senior outside hitter Hana Cutura looks to guide the Bears to yet another historic finish.
THE FACTS: The ninth-seeded California volleyball team (20-10, 11-7 Pac-10) will make its fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA regional semifinal as it takes on Baylor (24-9, 11-9 Big 12). The Golden Bears and the Baylor Bears will face off in the Gainesville Regional semifinal at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla., on Friday, Dec. 11, at 3:30 p.m. ET. Top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Penn State (34-0, 20-0 Big 10) faces 16th-seeded host Florida (25-5, 16-4 SEC) in the other semifinal set to start at 6 p.m. ET on Dec. 11. The two-time defending NCAA champion Nittany Lions have not lost in 98 consecutive matches. The semifinal winners will play in the regional championship match at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Dec. 12. ESPNU will carry the championship match live.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS: Live stats and streaming video will be provided for both of the Gainesville regional semifinal matches at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla. The regional championship match will be broadcast live by ESPNU at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Dec. 12. The University of Florida media relations department will be distributing a live video feed of the semifinal matches via their website, www.GatorZone.com. Links to Gametracker statistics can be found at the Florida website or at www.CalBears.com. Fans can also receive set-score updates and a behind-the-scenes look at the Bears during the postseason by following CalVolleyball on www.twitter.com/calvolleyball.
TICKETS: Ticket packages (both days) may be purchased in advance for $15.00 for level 1; $12.00 level 2 adult; $8.00 level 2 youth (12 and under) and senior citizens. Single-session tickets for level 2 may also be purchased beginning on the day of the first match for $10.00 for adults; $7.00 for senior citizens; and $5.00 for children 12 and under. The ticket windows are located at Gate 1 of the O'Connell Center. The arena will open to the public one hour prior to the beginning of matches. To purchase tickets, please visit www.GatorZone.com/tickets or call 800-34-GATOR.
CUTURA NAMED PAC-10 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Senior outside hitter Hana Cutura was named the Pacific-10 Conference Volleyball Player of the Year on Monday, Nov. 30. The Zagreb, Croatia native received her third all-conference selection and became the first Golden Bear to earn Pac-10 player of the year honors. Cutura led the Pac-10 in kills (5.09 kps) and points (5.59 pps), and was rated 10th in hitting percentage (.313). She holds the school record for career kills with 1,970 and will finish no worse than third in all-time career attacks with 4,562. Cutura also ranks seventh at Cal in career service aces with 112. She owns three of Cal's top eight single-season records for kills and has 1,332 attacks this season to rank fifth on Cal's single-season attack records. Cutura received two Pac-10 Player of the Week awards this season and was selected as the Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week on Oct. 27. Cal has had one other player earn conference player of the year honors; All-American middle blocker Sylvie Monnet (1980-83) was selected NorPac Conference Player of the Year in 1983 as a senior.
NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Cal made a school-record eighth straight appearance in the NCAA championship tournament this season; 13th overall. The Bears advanced to the round of 16 for the first time in 2003 with two 3-0 victories over Saint Mary's and Michigan. The Bears went 1-1 in the postseason in 2004 and 2005 before advancing to the round of 16 once again in 2006 where it fell to eventual NCAA runner-up Stanford. In 2007, Cal set a new school record by advancing past the round of 16 to face defending NCAA champion Nebraska in the Wisconsin Regional Championship. There, it defeated the Cornhuskers, 3-0, to earn a spot in the national semifinal match. Last year, the Bears fell in a sweep to two-time defending NCAA champion Penn State in the University Park Regional final in State College, Pa. Cal has also made postseason appearances in the AIAW (1981) and NIVC (1991) tournaments and owns a 23-16 record in all postseason matches, 19-12 in the NCAA tournament.
FELLER FOCUS: Cal head volleyball coach Rich Feller leads the Bears into the NCAA tournament for the eighth consecutive year. In his 11th season at Berkeley, Feller has a 16-7 NCAA championship record with Cal and has guided his Bears to victory in all eight of their first-round matches. Overall, Feller is 21-15 in postseason matches including five wins while at Colorado State and has taken his team to the NCAA regional semifinal in each of the last four years.
SELECT COMPANY: The Bears are one of just six teams to advance to the NCAA regional semifinal in each of the last four years (2006-09). Among the other programs to accomplish the same feat are volleyball powerhouses Florida, Nebraska, Penn State, Stanford and Texas. Including Cal, each program in that group besides Florida has also advanced to the regional championship match in each of the last two NCAA championship tournaments (2007-08).
ALL-CONFERENCE SIX-PACK: Three players joined conference player of the year Hana Cutura on the All-Pac-10 team; senior middle hitter Mindi Wiley (Sonoma, Calif.), junior setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, Calif.) and sophomore outside hitter Tarah Murrey (El Cerrito, Calif.) each received all-conference honorable mention. Wiley earned her second honorable mention recognition with Lloyd making her second appearance on the all-conference team; first as an honorable mention. Murrey received honorable mention for the first time and was a freshman all-conference selection last year. Freshman opposite hitter Correy Johnson (Winter Park, Fla.) was selected to the All-Freshman team with middle hitter Kat Brown (Aptos, Calif.) receiving All-Freshman honorable mention. Johnson's appearance on the frosh team gives Cal nine consecutive years in which at least one first-year player has earned a position on the conference all-freshman team.
BEAR BRILLIANCE: Six California volleyball players received honorable mention selections to the 2009 Pac-10 Conference All-Academic team. Senior libero Kristen Kathan received her third honorable mention and was joined by a duo of second-time honorable mention Bears; senior middle hitter Mindi Wiley and junior setter Carli Lloyd. Senior outside hitter Hana Cutura, junior defensive specialist Meagan Schmitt and sophomore outside hitter Tarah Murrey each made their first appearance on the all-academic team with honorable mention status. The Bears also had at least six players on the conference all-academic team on two other occasions: 1997 and 2006.
LAST WEEK: Cal maintained a spotless 8-0 record in first-round NCAA matches under head coach Rich Feller as it dispatched Atlantic Sun Conference champion Lipscomb in three sets (25-15, 25-22, 25-9) at the St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Senior outside hitter Hana Cutura led all players with 20 kills (1e, 36att, .528) as the Bears posted a season-high .453 attack percentage (44k, 5e, 86att) against the Bison to snap a two-match losing streak. The next night, Cal returned to the court to take on site-host Ohio State for the right to move on to the NCAA regional semifinal in Gainesville, Fla. The Bears came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and fought off a second-set slump to take out the Buckeyes in four sets (25-13, 18-25, 25-23, 25-20). Senior middle hitter Mindi Wiley showed her offensive prowess by leading all players with a .619 attack rate with 15 kills (2e) on 21 attacks. Senior libero Kristen Kathan had match-high honors with 20 digs to log her sixth match this season with 20 or more digs.
BAYLOR NOTES: The Bears (24-9, 11-9 Big 12) enter the Gainesville Regional semifinal on a three-match winning streak and are on a high after upsetting eighth-seeded UCLA in four sets (25-23, 25-22, 29-31, 25-19) on the Bruins' home court to advance past the second round for the first time in school history. Baylor took out Georgia Tech (25-17, 25-22, 25-22) in the first round and ended the regular season with a four-set win at Missouri. Senior outside hitter Katie Sanders leads the Bears in kills (3.18 kps) and is second on the team in digs (2.94 dps). The Baylor offense spreads the workload around with three more players averaging better than 2.30 kps; senior middle blocker Anna Breyfogle (2.44 kps), freshman right side Tori Campbell (2.33 kps) and junior right side Ashlie Christenson (2.54 kps). Breyfogle also provides a defensive spark for Baylor as she leads the team with 1.39 blocks per set (15th in the nation). Sophomore libero Allison King leads the team with 4.50 dps and is second on the team with 20 service aces. Senior setter Taylor Barnes dishes out 10.72 assists per set but is a lethal force behind the service line with 46 aces this season. Barnes also ranks third on the team with 2.45 digs per set. Cal has met Baylor three times and took two four-set victories at neutral sites in 1990 and 1991. Cal swept Baylor in three sets (30-12, 30-20, 30-25) in the final match of the 2006 Cal Molten Classic on Aug. 26, at Haas Pavilion. All-American outside hitter Angie Pressey had 20 kills (5e, 35att, .429) to lead the offense while a freshman Hana Cutura earned 18 kills (1e, 30att, .567) in just her third match at Berkeley. Baylor was held to a .019 attack rate (29k, 27e, 106att) as Cal posted nine blocks and 45 digs.