Bears Travel To Palouse
BERKELEY - California volleyball travels to the Palouse for a conference double-dip with No. 17 Washington State this week.
The Golden Bears and Cougars are set for a 6 p.m. first serve on Friday, Feb. 26 at Bohler Gym, followed by an 11 a.m. start on Sunday, Feb. 28. Links to the live stream and live stats for the matches are available on CalBears.com.
The young, shorthanded Cal squad is coming off of a pair of 3-1 losses to USC last week at Haas Pavilion. The Blue and Gold are led by a pair of freshmen in Lydia Grote (Burbank, California) and Katarina Pantovic (Vancouver, British Columbia), along with senior Isabel Potter (Moline, Illinois). Grote leads the Bears with 84 kills and 27 blocks, while Pantovic is second on the team with 80 kills playing in eight of 10 matches this season. Potter moved into seventh all-time at Cal in assists last week, totaling 2,609 in her career with the Bears.
The Cougars return to action after having their matches at Stanford last weekend canceled due to COVID-19/injury concerns within the Cardinal program. Washington State ranks in the top five of all major stat categories in the Pac-12 and leads the conference in blocks per set at 2.74 with 93 total blocks on the season through eight matches. Magda Jehlarova is second in the conference with a .400 hitting percentage and Hannah Pukis is fourth in total assists with 303 and sixth in assists per set at 8.91.
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 moved into seventh on the all-time assists list at Cal in last weekend's match vs. USC on Feb. 19. Potter recorded 34 assists against the Trojans to pass Joan Caloiaro's (2012-13) 2,552 career assist mark and now has 2,609 assists in her Cal career. Samantha Carter (2003-06) holds the all-time record at Cal with 5,771 career helpers.
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 efficiency outing on Feb. 5 is seventh-best in the Pac-12. The native of Burbank, California leads the team with 84 kills and 27 blocks after the first 10 matches of the season.
Freshman Katarina Pantovic recorded her first career double-double (15k, 12d) in Cal's 3-2 win over then-No. 15 Stanford on Feb. 12. Opening her Golden Bear career with a bang on the road at then-No. 22 UCLA to begin the season, Pantovic tallied 14 kills and nine digs to fall just short of a double-double in her collegiate debut. The Vancouver, British Columbia native is second on the team with 80 kills through the first five weeks of the season after recording a season-high 16 on Feb. 5 at Colorado. Pantovic is still fourth on the team with 57 digs, despite only playing eight of the 10 matches due to an injury.
Cal was bolstered in its win over then-No. 15 Stanford on Feb. 12 with a strong performance from behind the service line. The Bears recorded a season-high 12 service aces, winning the battle from behind the line, 12-5. Isabel Potter tallied a match best five aces, while Lydia Grote added a season-high three aces.
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. Bergmark is currently second on the team with 19 blocks on the season.
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, California), libero Lexi Gruszczynski (San Clemente, California), setter Kendall Jensen (Burbank, California), outside hitter Katarina Pantovic (Vancouver, British Columbia) and opposite Sam Taumoepeau (San Diego, California).