Bears Face Buffs In Boulder
BERKELEY -- California volleyball takes to the road for two matches in the Centennial State against Colorado at the CU Events Center in Boulder.
The Golden Bears and Buffaloes are set for a 6 p.m. PT first serve on Friday, Feb. 5, followed by an 11 a.m. PT start on Sunday, Feb. 7. The matches will be available via live stream and live stats with links on CalBears.com. Cal is looking for its first win of the season after facing then-No. 22 UCLA on the road to open the Conference-only slate and No. 8 Utah at Haas Pavilion in the home opener last weekend.
All six freshmen on the Cal roster have been forced into early starts to their careers at the NCAA level, with two of the rookies standing at the top of the stats through the first two weeks of the season. Lydia Grote (Burbank, Calif.) leads the Bears with 32 kills and is second on the team with eight blocks, while Katarina Pantovic (Vancouver, British Columbia) is second in kills (30) and fourth in digs (21) even after missing last Sunday's match vs Utah with an injury.
The Buffs head into the weekend as one of just two undefeated teams in the conference who have played matches this season. CU opened with 3-1 and 3-0 victories over Oregon State before having last week's matches at Stanford canceled. Defense is key for Colorado, which leads the conference at 2.71 blocks per set.
GRO-T-ING UP QUICKLY
Lydia Grote has gotten off to a strong start in her Cal career. She collected 18 kills on .654 hitting to go along with three blocks in her debut at then-No. 22 UCLA on Jan. 22. The 18 kills set a new mark for most in a freshman debut in Cal volleyball history and is tied for seventh-most in a single match in the Pac-12 this season, while being the fourth-best total in a four-set match. Grote's .654 attack percentage in the opener is the best in the Pac-12 this season with a minimum of 12 kills. The native of Burbank, Calif. leads the team with 32 kills after the first four matches of the season.
Freshman Katarina Pantovic opened her Cal career with a bang on the road at then-No. 22 UCLA to open the season. Pantovic recorded 14 kills and nine digs in the opener, falling just short of a double-double in her collegiate debut. The Vancouver, British Columbia native followed with 10 kills on Sunday in Los Angeles and is second on the team with 30 kills after the first two weeks of the season. Pantovic is still fourth on the team with 21 digs, despite missing last Sunday's match vs. Utah with an injury.
Sophomore outside hitter Sydney Lilomaiava has made an impact early in her second season wearing the Blue and Gold. Through the first two weeks, Lilomaiava is third on the squad in both kills (27) and kills per set (2.08). Lilomaiava set a new career-best in the season-opener on Jan. 22 at UCLA with 13 finishes and her .417 attack percentage in the match is the eighth-best in the conference this season with a minimum of 12 kills.
2019 AVCA Pacific North All-Region and All-Pac-12 outside hitter Mima Mirkovic is opting out of the spring indoor season and the two-way athlete will play with the Cal beach volleyball team this spring. Mirkovic is a three-year starter for the Golden Bears and is just six kills away from becoming the 17th Cal volleyball player to reach 1,000 in her career. She plans to return in the fall and complete her indoor volleyball eligibility with the Golden Bears. Another outside hitter, Arizona transfer Katie Smoot, also decided to forgo the spring indoor season to play with the Cal beach volleyball program. She will also return to the team for the fall 2021 indoor season.
Six of the 15 active players on the spring roster for the Bears are new faces since the team last took the court in November of 2019. The freshman class includes libero Tara DeSa (Mililani, Hawai'i), middle blocker Lydia Grote (Burbank, Calif.), libero Lexi Gruszczynski (San Clemente, Calif.), setter Kendall Jensen (Burbank, Calif.), outside hitter Katarina Pantovic (Vancouver, British Columbia) and opposite Sam Taumoepeau (San Diego, Calif.).
Cal gets a boost in the middle with the return of redshirt sophomore Bella Bergmark, who sat out the 2019 volleyball season. Bergmark participated in USA volleyball tryouts back in February 2020 and will see a lot of playing time with the departures of graduated All-Conference middle blockers Preslie Anderson and Lauren Forte. The Larkspur, Calif. native started eight matches as a freshman in 2018, playing in 38 sets. She recorded 36 kills and 21 blocks during her first season with the Golden Bears and made her presence known with seven total blocks (2s, 5a) against No. 8 Utah on Jan. 29, tied for the second-most in the conference in a single match so far this season.
O CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN
The Bears will be led by two captains during the 2020-21 season in senior setter Isabel Potter and junior libero Jessica Houghton. The experienced duo were voted captains by their teammates during the summer. Potter has played in 92 matches and 331 sets in her first three seasons at Cal, totaling 60 kills and 66 service aces while leading the team in assists. Houghton came on strong late during the 2019 campaign, playing in nine matches and 24 sets. She recorded a career high 13 digs on Nov. 27 at Washington.