No. 6 Golden Bears Open 2009 with Three at Nevada Tournament

Aug. 26, 2009


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The No. 6-ranked California volleyball team begins its 2009 campaign towards a school-record eighth-consecutive NCAA tournament appearance with three matches at the Nevada Marriott Courtyard/Fairfield Invitational. The Golden Bears are hungry to return to the NCAA national semifinal match after falling one match short a year ago. Cal set new school records for single-season winning percentage and defeated every team in the Pac-10 conference for the first time in school history in 2008. The Bears return plenty of firepower in 2009, led by two-time All-American senior outside hitter Hana Cutura. In the middle, Cal brings back senior Mindi Wiley, who led the team in blocks and posted the sixth-best single-season hitting percentage in program history a season ago. Defensively, the Bears will feature the prowess of senior libero Kristen Kathan. Kathan logged Cal's third-highest single-season mark for digs in 2008 with 491 to her credit. Junior All-American setter Carli Lloyd returns to the lineup after placing third in the nation in assists per set and will help Cutura, Kathan and Wiley captain the Bears this season. A year wiser, Cal will also benefit from the presence of sophomores Tarah Murrey and Shannon Hawari, who will each contribute heavily in the regular Bear rotation.

THE FACTS: No. 6 California will take on UC Irvine, Saint Mary's (CA), and Connecticut to open the 2009 season at the Nevada Marriott Courtyard/Fairfield Invitational this weekend. All three matches will be played at the Virginia Street Gym in Reno, Nev. The Bears and Anteaters meet on Friday, Aug. 28 in a 4:30 p.m. match. Then Cal faces the Gaels on Saturday, Aug. 29 at 4: 30 p.m. The Huskies top things off with a 10 a.m. match on Sunday, Aug. 30. Live statistics will be available for each match and a live stationary video feed without commentary is available for a fee at

2008 IN REVIEW: The Bears recorded the best record in school history as they advanced to the NCAA Regional Final for the second consecutive season and received the No. 6 ranking in the final AVCA poll. Cal finished 26-7 overall and claimed third place in the Pac-10 with a 13-5 mark. The Bears defeated every team in the Pac-10 at least once for the first time and beat Stanford on the road for the first time in 29 years. Cal reeled off a school-record 29 consecutive set victories from Sept. 14 through Oct. 19 and set a new mark for consecutive home wins with 16 from Oct. 11, 2007 through Nov. 2, 2008. The Bears' 18-1 start to the season and 8-0 mark to open conference play were also new program bests. Cal received a school-record seventh-consecutive bid to the NCAA tournament and hosted first and second round matches at Haas Pavilion. The Bears defeated Siena College, New Mexico State and Illinois in postseason play before falling to eventual national champion No. 1-ranked Penn State in the State College Regional Championship match. Outside hitter Hana Cutura and setter Carli Lloyd received AVCA All-America and Pac-10 All-Conference honors. The duo was joined by outside hitter Amr'a Solomon, and middle hitter Mindi Wiley for postseason awards as Solomon and Wiley received AVCA regional recognition and All-Pac-10 honorable mention. Cal also placed two players on the conference all-freshman team as outside hitter Tarah Murrey and middle hitter Shannon Hawari each made appearances on the short roster. Murrey ranked third on the team in kills per set (2.43 kps) and Hawari set a new Cal single-season hitting percentage record as she registered 113 kills on 230 attacks (.387).

UC IRVINE NOTES: The Anteaters finished second in the Big West Conference in 2008 with a 12-4 league record and posted a 17-12 overall mark. UC Irvine welcomes nine newcomers to the roster and returns four starters to the lineup. The Anteaters will also take the court under the direction of first-year head coach Paula Weishoff for the first time when they face Cal. Senior setter Taryn Robertson, junior outside hitter Kari Pestolesi, and sophomore middle blocker Alexandra Hauser lead a squad that won eight of its last nine matches in 2008. An All-Big West selection, Pestolesi led the Anteaters in kills (3.59 kps) and was second on the team with 3.35 digs per set a season ago. Hauser was a Big West All-Freshman team selection and is a presence in the middle for UC Irvine. Robertson received AVCA All-West Region honorable mention as she recorded an 11.08 assists per set average to go along with her 221 digs. Cal owns a 9-3 record against UC Irvine and has prevailed in the last eight meetings. The last time the two teams met, in 2004, the Bears walked away with a 3-0 neutral-court win on Sept. 19.

SAINT MARY'S NOTES: The Gaels took home a 20-8 overall record last season and placed third in the West Coast Conference with a 10-4 mark. Saint Mary's returns five starters and its libero and will welcome three newcomers to its 2009 roster. Fifth-year head coach Rob Browning is 65-45 in four seasons at the helm for the Gaels. Saint Mary's returns a strong set of experienced players led by junior outside hitter Megan York. York led the team in kills a season ago with 3.49 kps and was second on the team in digs with 3.23 dps. The Gaels also return their top blocker in junior middle blocker Shannon Lowell. Lowell averaged 1.08 blocks per set and added 2.92 kills per set last year. Saint Mary's will also have the benefit of the leadership of junior setter Kapua Kamana'o, who posted an 11.47 aps mark in 2008. Senior middle blocker Megan Burton should also not be overlooked as she contributed 1.82 kps and 1.02 bps as a junior. Cal holds a 10-2 mark when facing the Gaels but lost the last meeting; a 3-2 stunner at Haas Pavilion in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Dec. 3, 2004.

CONNECTICUT NOTES: The Huskies were fourth-place finishers in the Big East in 2008 with a 10-4 record; 21-11 overall. Fifth-year Connecticut head coach Holly Strauss-O'Brien has posted a 74-46 career record and will have five returning starters to work with as the Huskies enter 2009. UConn will need to replace its setter Annie Luhrsen from a year ago but will benefit from the strengths of three talented returning players. Senior libero Jessica Issac led the Huskies in digs in 2008 with 469 (4.01 dps). Issac was also second on the team in service aces with 29 total. Fellow senior, outside hitter Chauntay Mickens held the team lead for kills in 2008 and posted 3.07 kps. Junior middle hitter Rebecca Murray brings back 113 total blocks from last season while she added 2.21 kills per set. Junior right-side Lauren Lamberti put down 250 kills of her own and was fourth on the team in total blocks with 60. The Bears lost their only matchup against the Huskies, a 3-2 defeat in Storr, Conn. on Sept. 2, 2001.

POLL POSITIONS: Cal received the No. 6 ranking in two preseason polls; the AVCA Division I Coaches' Top 25 Poll and the Volleyball Magazine Top 20 Poll. The selection in the AVCA poll marks the ninth time in school history that the Bears have been ranked to open a season; the seventh since Rich Feller became head coach in 1999. Cal was ranked No. 5 at the start of 2008 and finished No. 6. The Bears held the No. 12 spot in 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 in 2008 as the Bears reached No. 4 for several weeks. Since 1982, the Bears have been ranked in the weekly AVCA poll a total of 131 times.

BEARS IN TV LAND: The Bears will be featured in two Fox Sports Net television broadcasts this season. FSN will be on hand at Haas Pavilion to cover Cal's Pac-10 opener against Stanford on Friday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. PT. The Bears' first Pac-10 road match will also be televised when Cal visits the Galen Center in Los Angeles to take on USC on Friday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. Both matches will be televised via tape delay on the Sunday immediately following the match. Please check your local listings for times and availability.

THE PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE: Cal competes in what is undeniably the toughest conference in women's collegiate volleyball--the Pacific-10. The conference has captured five of the last eight NCAA titles and holds 13 volleyball national championships overall. The Pac-10 has had 10 or more AVCA All-American selections in each of the last four years and boasts a group of coaches with over 200 years of combined head-coaching experience. Six Pac-10 teams hold rankings in the current AVCA Top 25 poll. Washington leads all teams with the No. 4 ranking. No. 5 Stanford follows close behind with Cal next at No. 6. No. 9 UCLA gives the conference four teams among the top 10 alone. No. 12 USC is next on the list, followed by No. 14 Oregon. Arizona also received votes and would be in a tie for No. 38 if the rankings extended.

STRICT SCHEDULE: As a part of the Pac-10 conference, the Bears face top-ranked teams on a regular basis. This season, according to the preseason AVCA poll, Cal is scheduled to face at least 13 teams ranked in the top 25 before season's end. In addition to taking on No. 4 Washington, No. 5 Stanford, No. 9 UCLA, No. 12 USC and No. 14 Oregon twice this season, the Bears will also take on No. 2 Texas, No. 20 Saint Louis and No. 7 Hawai'i in three consecutive matches as part of the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic in Honolulu from Sept. 3-6. Among teams receiving votes in the preseason poll, Cal also has Arizona, Saint Mary's (CA) twice, San Francisco and UC Irvine on its schedule.

DIG FOR THE CURE: During the month of October, Pac-10 volleyball teams will join forces to help raise awareness about breast cancer during home matches as a part of the national Dig for the Cure campaign. Cal volleyball will run a special donation drive to benefit the Alta Bates Carol Ann Reed Breast Health Center when it takes on Arizona on Friday, Oct. 23. Check for more details on promotions as the match nears.

FOLLOW CAL VOLLEYBALL ON TWITTER: This season, fans can follow Cal volleyball on Twitter. Stay up to date and get the inside scoop on everything Cal volleyball at

SEASON TICKET HOLDER CHALLENGE: The Cal volleyball team has issued a challenge to its season ticket holders this season. In an effort to raise the number of season ticket holders and E-newsletter subscribers, the team is offering prize incentives for different levels of goal achievement. Check the volleyball page at for more information and learn how you can help.

WELCOME FRESHMEN: The Bears bring in seven newcomers in 2009. Among the top-10 ranked recruiting class, Cal's roster will feature four Top Senior Aces and three players who each earned Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 and UnderArmour High School All-America recognition. Joining the Bears this season are outside hitter Jessica Adams; setter Elly Barrett; middle hitter Kat Brown; outside hitter Mary Buckingham; middle hitter Tia Gaffen; middle hitter Correy Johnson; and defensive specialist Robin Rostratter.

ISLAND CONNECTION: First-year director of volleyball operations Jennifer Carey is a former All-Western Athletic Conference setter for Hawai'i. Carey set records as a member of the Rainbow Wahine and was a four-time selection to the WAC All-Academic team. She arrived at Cal via Georgia Tech where she was an assistant coach under Bond Shymansky. Prior to coaching, Carey served as the director of operations for Texas A&M volleyball. Cal's visit to the islands will be a homecoming for Carey as the Bears take on her alma mater on Sept. 6 in Honolulu.

#1 | PLACE SETTING: In just two seasons, setter Carli Lloyd has established herself as a force to be reckoned with. As a freshman, she completed her season just six assists shy of setting a new Cal single-season record as she posted 1,550 in 2007. In 2008, Lloyd continued to push boundaries by putting up 1,392 assists, as she earned the sixth best all-time single-season mark at Cal and placed third in the nation with her 12.00 aps average. With 2,942 career assists, Lloyd is third among active Pac-10 assist leaders and sits comfortably in fifth all-time for the Bears; on pace to continue to break records in the years to come. Over the summer, she was named to the all-tournament team at the USA Adult Open Volleyball Championship as she helped guide her team to a bronze medal finish.

#1 | CALIFORNIA GLADIATOR: Junior All-American 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.'

#2 | SHE CAN DIG IT: Senior libero Kristen Kathan led the Bears in digs a year ago with 4.23 dps; fourth in the Pac-10. Her 491 digs ranked third all-time for single-season digs at Cal. As a sophomore, she posted the 10th best single-season mark with 414 digs. With 1,023 career digs, she is poised to break into the top 10 among Bears in that statistical category.

#4 | TARAH ON THE COURT: In just her first year with the Bears, Tarah Murrey proved why she was such a sought after recruit coming out of high school. Murrey posted 277 kills and ranked third on the team with 2.43 kps. She also contributed 177 digs in 2008 on her way to a selection on the Pac-10 All-Freshman team. Last summer, she helped her USA A2 team to a bronze medal at the 80th Annual USA Adult Open Volleyball Championship.

#7 | ROE SHAM BO: As a freshman, setter/defensive specialist Ashley Roe appeared in five matches for the Bears. Her first collegiate play was a service ace. Heading into her sophomore season, Roe hopes to bring a new set of tools to the court as she competes for time as a defensive specialist.

#9 | OBI WAN KENOBERMEYER: Sophomore 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 2008 valedictorians at Westmont High School in Campbell, Calif. As a freshman, she 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.

#14 | HAWARIAN VACATION: Sophomore middle hitter Shannon Hawari didn't take any time off as she set a new Cal record for single season hitting percentage in 2008 as she posted a .387 mark with 113 kills on 230 attacks. She ranked fourth among Pac-10 players and also contributed to the Bears defensively with 64 blocks on her way to a selection to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team.

#21 | MINDI IN THE MIDDLE: Senior middle hitter Mindi Wiley led the Bears in blocks in 2008 with 123; 1.09 bps. Those numbers were good enough to rank fifth among Pac-10 players. She also ranked fifth in the Pac-10 in hitting percentage with a .337 mark (258k, 86e, 511att). Wiley received AVCA All-Pacific Region honorable mention and All-Pac-10 honorable mention as a junior and set the ninth best single-season mark for blocks as well as the sixth best single-season mark for hitting percentage at Cal.

#26 | THE CROATION SENSATION: Two-time All-American outside hitter Hana Cutura led the Bears in kills (4.34 kps, 499 kills) and points (572.5) in 2008. As a senior, she returns to the Cal lineup with 1,376 career kills (second among active Pac-10 players). Her performance as a junior nabbed her second All-Pac-10 selection as she set the fifth highest mark for single-season kills at Cal. She is tops among active Pac-10 players in service aces with 93 and is poised to break into the career service ace top 10 at Cal this season.

#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.

#44 | FAMILY TRACK RECORD: Junior defensive specialist Meagan Schmitt seems destined to be a Cal athlete. Both of 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. As a sophomore, Schmitt posted a career-high three service aces at Arizona and later recorded a career-high 11 digs against UCLA.

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