Big Spike Weekend
BERKELEY -- The Big Spike returns to the Bay Area this week as California faces Stanford in a weekend home-and-home two-match set.
The Golden Bears and Cardinal are set for a 2 p.m. first serve on Friday, Feb. 12 at Haas Pavilion, followed by a 5 p.m. start on Sunday, Feb. 14 inside Maples Pavilion. The matches will both be televised live on the Pac-12 Networks and you can follow the action with live stats links available on CalBears.com.
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. Katarina Pantovic (Vancouver, British Columbia) leads the Bears with 51 kills and is second on the team with 37 digs playing in five of six matches this season, while Lydia Grote (Burbank, Calif.) is second in kills (47) and second in blocks (12).
The Cardinal finally returned to the court last weekend for the first time since winning the 2019 national title, dropping both matches on the road at Arizona (3-0, 3-1). Stanford struggled offensively as a team in its return to action in Tucson, hitting a combined .124 in the two matches against the Wildcats. The Cardinal had individuals stand out, however, as Annabelle Smith hit .391 and Kendall Kipp recorded 29 kills in the two matches. Kipp's 4.14 kills per set average through two matches ranks third in the Pac-12.
GRO-T-ING UP QUICKLY
Lydia Grote got off to a strong start in her Cal career, collecting 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 the fifth-best total in a four-set match so far this season in the Pac-12. Grote's .654 attack percentage in the opener is the second-best in the conference this season with a minimum of 12 kills and her .545 offensive effeciency outing on Feb. 5 is sixth-best in the Pac-12. The native of Burbank, Calif. is second on the team with 47 kills after the first six matches of the season.
Freshman Katarina Pantovic opened her Cal career with a bang on the road at then-No. 22 UCLA to begin 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 leads the team with 51 kills through the first three weeks of the season after recording a season-high 16 on Feb. 5 at Colorado. Pantovic is still second on the team with 37 digs, despite only playing five of the six matches due to an injury.
Sophomore outside hitter Sydney Lilomaiava has made an impact early in her second season wearing the Blue and Gold. Through the first three weeks, Lilomaiava is third on the squad in both kills (37) and kills per set (1.76), while adding to the defensive side as well, sitting third in blocks at 10. Lilomaiava set new career-bests in the season-opener on Jan. 22 at UCLA with 13 finishes on .417 attack percentage.
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.
RE-SHAPING THE RECORD BOOK
Senior setter Isabel Potter is leaving her mark in the record book during her final season as a Golden Bear. The Moline, Illinois native has moved into eighth on the all-time assists list at Cal, currently sitting at 2,489 career assists. Potter is 63 assists away from moving into the seventh spot on the list, currently held by Joan Caloiaro (2012-13). Samantha Carter (2003-06) holds the all-time record at Cal with 5,771 career helpers.
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.