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Cal Heads To Desert

Mar 10, 2021

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BERKELEY - California volleyball heads to the desert for a Pac-12 Conference matchup with Arizona State this weekend.    

The Golden Bears and Sun Devils are set for a 2 p.m. first serve on Friday, Mar. 12 at Desert Financial Arena, followed by a 12 noon PT start on Sunday, Mar. 14. Friday's match will be televised live on the Pac-12 Networks and Sunday's match will be available via ASU Live Stream. 

The young, shorthanded Cal squad is coming off of a pair of losses to Oregon State last week at Haas Pavilion, falling 3-2 on Friday and 3-0 Sunday. 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 135 kills and 33 blocks, while Pantovic is second on the team with 109 kills, playing in 12 of 14 matches this season. Potter moved into seventh all-time at Cal in assists three weeks ago, totaling 2,653 in her career with the Bears.    

The Sun Devils split a weekend series with rival Arizona a week ago in Tempe, falling 3-0 on Friday before coming back from a two-set deficit on Sunday to pull off the reverse sweep in a 3-2 win. ASU ranks fifth in the conference as a team in both service aces and digs. Annika Larson is third in the Pac-12 with a 3.92 digs per set average and Kennedi Boyd is fifth in the conference in blocks per set at 1.22.

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 Grote's .654 attack percentage in the opener is the fourth-best in the conference this season with a minimum of 12 kills. The native of Burbank, California has recorded seven double digit kill matches, including four in a row and leads the team with 135 kills and 33 blocks after the first 14 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, the Bears first win in the series since 2011. 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 109 kills through the first seven weeks of the season after recording a season-high 16 on Feb. 5 at Colorado. Pantovic set a new career-high with 13 digs on Mar. 5 against OSU as part of her second double-double with 13 kills.   

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 which is tied for most in the conference this season in a single match while Lydia Grote added a season-high three aces. Potter currently stands fourth in the Pac-12 with 17 aces on the season. 

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 on Feb. 19 vs USC. Potter recorded 34 assists against the Trojans to pass Joan Caloiaro's (2012-13) 2,552 career assist mark and now has 2,653 assists in her Cal career. Samantha Carter (2003-06) holds the all-time record at Cal with 5,771 career helpers.  

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 fourth-most in the conference in a single match so far this season. Bergmark is currently second on the team with 27 blocks on the season.

For complete coverage of Cal volleyball, please follow the Bears on Twitter (@CalVolleyball), Instagram (@calvolleyball) and Facebook (Cal Volleyball).