No. 11 Cal Volleyball Takes On No. 22 Santa Clara And Notre Dame

Sept. 10, 2007


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No. 11 California volleyball will try to sustain the momentum they generated after winning the Golden Bear Invitational by defeating then 12th-ranked Minnesota as the Bears take a short road trip to face the No. 22 Santa Clara Broncos at the Leavey Center in Santa Clara, Calif. at 7 p.m. on Sept. 14. Santa Clara will also serve as a neutral-site host for a 4:30 p.m. Sept. 15 match between the Bears and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Golden Bears return four starters (Angie Pressey, Ellen Orchard, Morgan Beck, and Hana Cutura) from a 2006 squad that went 22-10 overall (9-9 in the Pac-10), advanced to the NCAA Round of 16, and finished the season ranked No. 13 in the country. Cal also features six other returnees and an outstanding freshman setter, Carli Lloyd, who was named 2006 CIF Player of the Year. The Bears are looking to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for a school-record sixth straight year in 2007.

Cal is led by a pair of senior team captains: All-American outside hitter Pressey and HM All-Pac-10 middle hitter Orchard. Pressey is also a three-time All-Pac-10 selection and is second among currently active Pac-10 players with 1,348 career kills (Washington's Christal Morrison is first). Orchard led the Bears with 163 blocks and a .305 hitting percentage last season. She is also second among active Pac-10 players in total blocks with 354 behind only Arizona's Dominique Lamb. Most recently, Orchard was named MVP of the 2007 Golden Bear Invitational. Junior outside hitter/middle hitter Beck was honorable All-Pac-10 in 2006 and was second on the team in blocks (127) and third in kills (306), while sophomore outside hitter Hana Cutura was a member of the 2006 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team after finishing second on the team with 392 kills and was MVP of two tournaments.

Pressey and Orchard are in the Cal record books for both single-season and career marks. Pressey, one of four Cal All-American volleyball players in school history, and the only three-time All-Pac-10 selection, is currently tied for fourth on Cal's all-time kill list (1,348), sixth with a .243 career hitting percentage and seventh with 3,321 kill attempts. Pressey had the fifth-most single-season kills (487) in school history in 2006. Orchard has the school's second-highest career hitting percentage (.295) and the seventh-most total blocks (354). As a junior, she had the school's second-most single-season blocks (168) and the sixth-best hitting percentage (.305).

On Sept. 21, Cal hosts the Stanford Cardinal to open its Pac-10 schedule. Stanford, the preseason favorite to win the conference, is ranked second nationally after losing to Nebraska in last year's NCAA title match. The Bears fell to the Cardinal, 3-0, in the 2006 NCAA Regional in Austin, Texas. The Big Spike will be shown live on Comcast. Including the match against Minnesota, the Bears will be televised four times this season. The Oct. 4 match at Oregon will be shown delayed on Fox Sports Net and a Haas Pavilion home match against USC on Friday, Sept. 28 will be shown live at 7 p.m. on Comcast.

Cal once again is competing in what is arguably the most challenging volleyball conference in the nation-the Pac-10. The Bears' 2007 schedule includes seven teams ranked in the CSTV/AVCA Preseason Poll, with four of those opponents coming from the Pac-10. Cal will take on No. 2 Stanford, No. 4 USC, No. 5 UCLA, and No. 8 Washington in league play. Outside of conference play, the Bears faced a then No. 12 Minnesota team and this weekend, faces No. 22 Santa Clara.

Representing the West Coast Conference, No. 22 Santa Clara (6-3) is coached by ninth-year head coach Jon Wallace. The Broncos finished third in the WCC and had an overall record of 20-8 in 2006, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Santa Clara is led by sophomore opposite hitter Lindsy Evans (4.07 kpg) who is also second on the team with 20 total blocks on the season. The Broncos may have three losses but two of them were to top 20 teams; No. 7 Florida and No. 16 Hawai'i. The Bears own a 29-7 all-time series edge over Santa Clara and look to extend their current two-game winning streak against the Broncos. Notre Dame (3-4) is the preseason favorite to win the Big East Conference. The Fighting Irish are led by sophomore outside hitter Megan Fesl who has racked up 109 kills with a .223 hitting percentage. Fesl also provides valuable defensive help for the Irish, second on the team in digs this season. The Golden Bears and Notre Dame have only met twice, splitting the series. Cal won in a 1985 regular season home match but more recently, the Irish came away with a 3-2 victory in 1991 at the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. Notre Dame is coached by 17th-year head coach Debbie Brown. Brown has led the Irish to 15 consecutive NCAA Championship appearances dating back to 1991 and is the winningest coach in Notre Dame Volleyball history.

HEAD COACH Rich Feller:
The most successful volleyball coach in Cal history, Rich Feller (147-101, .593 at Cal; career 446-268, .625) is in his ninth season at Berkeley. Feller led the Bears to a school-record fifth consecutive NCAA appearance and their second NCAA Regional appearance last season. In 2003, he was named Pacific Region Co-Coach of the Year and Pac-10 Coach of the Year after leading Cal to an NCAA Regional for the first time in school history. Feller was an assistant for the USA National Team from 1997-98, and head coach at Colorado State for 14 years (1983-96) prior to taking over the Bears' coaching reins in 1999.

The Bears lead the Pac-10 in blocks as a team with 4.30 bpg. Sophomore middle hitter Kat Reilly leads the conference with 2.33 bpg herself but senior middle hitter Ellen Orchard isn't far behind (1.62) in fourth and junior outside hitter Morgan Beck (1.38) also cracked the top ten this week. Orchard is also one of only three players in the Pac-10 to have notched 10 blocks in a single match this season.

Cal has been beating opponents with strong defense at the net, holding four teams to negative hitting percentages and leading the conference in opponent hitting percentage with a mark of .035.

California is tops in the Pac-10 with an average of 2.56 service aces per game. Freshman libero Caitlyn Murphy leads the conference with 0.63 aces per game. The Bears have also reached the 10-ace mark in three separate matches this season.

Cal's No. 12 pre-season ranking marks the seventh time in school history that the Bears have been ranked to open a season, the fifth time since Feller became head coach in 1999. Cal was ranked 17th at the start of 2006, 19th in 2005, 10th in 2004, 24th in 2003, ninth in 1989 and 12th in 1983. The Bears finished 13th in 2006 after advancing to the NCAA Regional where they fell to No. 2 Stanford, 3-0, in Austin, Tex. Cal has been ranked a total of 100 times since 1982, reaching as high as fifth on Oct. 13, 2003. The highest the Bears have ever been ranked at the end of a season was 10th in 1982.

Cal won its 12th tournament title in the last six years when it hosted the 2007 Golden Bear Invitational last weekend. Senior middle hitter Ellen Orchard was honored as the tournament MVP for the first time in her career. The Bears also won the Molten Classic, led by Tournament MVP, senior outside hitter Angie Pressey. In 2006, the Bears won the Florida International Invite in Miami, Fla. and the Golden Bear Invitational. Pressey and Cutura were the Co-MVPs of the Cal Molten Classic, Cutura was the MVP of the Florida International Invitational and Pressey was the MVP of the Golden Bear Invitational. Cal is also looking to return to the NCAA tournament for the sixth consecutive season after bowing out to rival Stanford in a 3-0 match in the Round of 16 last season.

Cal finished 13th in the AVCA poll after winning NCAA first and second round matches in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The Bears advanced to the round of 16 for the second time in school history with 3-1 victories over then No. 16 LSU, and then No. 14 Cal Poly. The Bears went on to face No. 2-ranked and eventual national runner-up Stanford on Dec. 8 at Gregory Gymnasium on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin, falling in three close games - 31-29, 30-25, 31-29 - to conclude the year 22-10. The Bears, who received an at-large selection to the postseason for the fifth consecutive year, started the season 11-0 and captured the Cal Molten Classic, the Florida International Invitational and the Golden Bear Invitational. Of Cal's 10 losses last season, nine came against teams ranked higher in the AVCA national poll. The Bears' 22 victories marked only the sixth time in school history that Cal has captured 20 or more matches. Feller is the only Cal coach to lead the Bears to an NCAA Regional, and has now accomplished the feat twice (2003, 2006). Several Bears had standout performances in 2006. Pressey led Cal with 487 kills and 4.39 kills per game, was tournament Co-MVP of the Cal Molten Classic and the Golden Bear Invitational, and was the Aug. 28 Pac-10 Player of the Week. Senior setter Samantha Carter finished her career as Cal's all-time assist leader with 5,777 assists and is only the fifth Pac-10 player to ever reach 5,000 career assists. Senior libero Jilian Davis set the school's all-time digs record with 1,810 career digs. Ellen Orchard hit .305 and led the Bears with 168 total blocks, the second-most single-season blocks in school history. Morgan Beck was second on the team with 127 blocks and third with 306 kills, while as a freshman Hana Cutura was second on the team with 392 kills and was Co-MVP of the Cal Molten Classic, and MVP of the Florida International Invitational.

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