Bears Open Season In New Orleans
BERKELEY - California volleyball returns to non-conference tournament play for the first time since September 13, 2019 as the Bears travel east for the Tulane Tournament in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Action begins early Friday morning at Fogelman Arena with Cal taking on Alabama A&M at 8 a.m. PT before finishing the day with a 2:30 p.m. PT date with Northwestern State. The tournament in the Pelican State wraps up with the Bears taking on host, Tulane, at 12 noon PT on Saturday.
It will be the first time ever Cal has met both Alabama A&M and Northwestern State on the volleyball court, while the Bears hold a 1-0 record all-time against Tulane. Live stats links are available for all matches, but only the match vs Tulane will be streamed.
RETURN OF THE MIRK
2019 AVCA Pacific North All-Region and All-Pac-12 outside hitter Mima Mirkovic is back on the outside for the Bears after she opted out of the spring indoor season to play with the Cal beach volleyball team during the pandemic-impacted 2020-21 season. Returning to the indoor court this fall, Mirkovic was named to the Preseason All-Pac-12 Team in a vote by the conference's head coaches. A native of Irvine, California, 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.
Cal will get a boost this season with the addition of two transfers from other Pac-12 schools. Katie Smoot (Arizona) and Leah Schmidt (Utah) add immediate experience on the pins for the Bears. Smoot recorded 307 kills as a junior at Arizona in 2019 and was second on team in both kills and digs for the Wildcats last time she played an indoor season. She tallied a season-high 19 kills three different times
and registered double digit kills 18 times in 2019. Schmidt saw the court in 19 matches at Utah, playing in 39 sets while recording 22 kills. She tallied a career-best 10 kills on 10/19 vs Utah State.
10 of the 18 players on the roster for the Bears are underclassmen at the 2021 season begins. Cal returns five sophomores from the 2020-21 spring season in libero Tara DeSa, middle blocker Lydia Grote, setter Kendall Jensen, outside hitter Katarina Pantovic and opposite Sam Taumoepeau along with the addition of Leah Schmidt. They are joined by four freshmen with middle blocker Ellie Hamm (Merced, Calif.), setter Annalea Maeder (Basel, Switzerland), opposite Ava Mehrten (Alamo, Calif.) and libero Sarah Schrag (San Diego, Calif.) all set to begin their collegiate careers.
The Bears return experience in the middle with redshirt-junior Bella Bergmark set for her third season on the court. Bergmark started all 22 matches at middle blocker during 2020-21 spring season and led the team with a .296 attack percentage while coming in fourth on the squad with 106 kills. The Larkspur, California native also tied for the team lead with fellow middle blocker, Lydia Grote, collecting 43 blocks on the year.
Sophomore Katarina Pantovic is back after a strong rookie campaign when she finished second on the team with 155 kills. 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 recorded a season-high 16 kills on Feb. 5 at Colorado and set a new season-high with 13 digs on Mar. 5 against OSU as part of her second double-double with 13 kills.
SETTING IT UP
Setter Kendall Jensen turned in a strong debut season for the Bears during the 2020-21 spring campaign, especially after she was forced into the starting role after an injury to four-year starter Isabel Potter. Jensen started the final 10 matches of the season and tallied 296 assists to tie Potter for the team lead in the category, setting a season-high with 41 assists on Mar. 5 against Oregon State. Jensen appeared in 69 sets and was third on the squad with 123 digs, totaling a season-best 14 on Feb. 5 in Boulder against Colorado.
GRO-T-ING UP QUICKLY
Lydia Grote was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team at the end of the 2020-21 spring season after she led the Bears with 204 kills on the year. She 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 was the fourth-best in the conference last season with a minimum of 12 kills. The native of Burbank, California recorded 10 double digit kill matches, including eight of the last 12. Grote ranked fourth in the conference among freshmen in kills.
Ellie Hamm, a 6-foot-4 middle blocker, brings immediate size to the middle of the court for the Bears. Hamm was a two-time Central California Conference Offensive Player of the Year and two-time First Team All-League selection. She averaged 15 kills per match as a junior and collected a career-high 34 kills in a match during her junior campaign. Annalea Maeder is a lengthy 6-foot-1 setter who comes to Berkeley with a wealth of international playing experience in Switzerland. Maeder was the 2020-21 Switzerland Youngster of the Year and a two-time Vice Supercup winner. The native of Basel, Switzerland was the 2019 U19 Switzerland MVP and a member of the 2020 Swiss Women's National Team. A native of Alamo, California, Ava Mehrten is a 6-foot-1 opposite and a four-time letter winner at Carondelet high school. Mehrten tallied 522 kills and 145 blocks in her first three seasons at Carondelet and was voted Second Team All-League her sophomore year. Rounding out the class, Sarah Schrag heads up the coast from San Diego to Berkeley as a 5-9 libero. Schrag was a three-time CIF Coastal League Champion and 2020 team captain at The Bishop's School. A four-year letterwinner, Schrag earned a bronze medal at the Triple Crown National Invitation Tournament and was a part of the 2020 Under Armour All-America Watch List.