Bears Open Season With Sweep
NEW ORLEANS – California opened the 2021 season with a pair of straight set victories on day one at the Tulane Tournament as senior Mima Mirkovic hit a career milestone in her return to the court for the Golden Bears.
Mirkovic opened the day by reaching 1,000 career digs in the Bears' win over Alabama A&M and followed by hitting 1,000 career kills in the victory over Northwestern State.
The Irvine, California native became the eighth player in Cal history to reach 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in her career, joining Lisa Arce, Jenna Brown, Jessica Dinaberg, Tarah Murrey, Alicia Perry, Angie Pressey and Tiffany Rochelle.
"When I first stepped foot into Haas Pavilion as a 17-year-old I set out on a mission to get 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs," Mirkovic said. "To be the eighth player in Cal history to achieve this as a smaller outside hitter just goes to show that heart trumps size. It's been a dream come true playing in the Pac-12 and achieving this alongside this group of girls specifically is just the cherry on top. It's exciting and I wouldn't have wanted to reach this goal with any other group of people. I can't wait for what's to come in my final season."
The Bears showed offensive efficiency throughout the day by hitting .446 in the season-opener, followed by a .406 hitting percentage in the sweep over the Lady Demons. Senior transfer Katie Smoot made an immediate impact in her Bear debut, tallying 19 kills and 10 digs in the two matches.
Cal had three setters with double-digit assists, led by freshman Annalea Maeder with 28, while Kendall Jensen recorded 25 and Jade Blevins added 10.
Cal 3, Northwestern State 0
After Northwestern State went to extra points in a five-set loss to host Tulane just 90 minutes prior to the start of the match, Cal put the pressure on from first serve by jumping out to an 8-2 lead in the first set.
The Lady Demons fought back, closing to within 15-10, but they weren't able to get closer as the Bears opened with a 25-18 first.
Another transfer, Leah Schmidt, made her presence known in the second set with six kills, helping Cal race out in front on the way to a 25-11 set win and a 2-0 lead. Schmidt recorded four more kills in the third to total 11 in the match on .647 hitting as the Bears closed out the match, 25-13.
Cal 3, Alabama A&M 0
The Bears opened the 2021 season with a dominating, straight set victory over the Bulldogs behind 13 kills from Katie Smoot and 11 digs from Mirkovic.
After a slow start and a 3-3 tie in the first set, Cal took the next four points thanks to Ellie Hamm's first collegiate kill, Schmidt's first kill as a Bear and a kill from Smoot after an A&M error. The Bulldogs cut the lead down to two at 7-5, but that was as close as they could get as Cal pulled away to take the opener 25-12.
The second set was all Cal from the first point. The Bears scored six of the first seven and ended the frame on a 10-0 run as Smoot recorded four kills in five swings.
It was another back-and-forth start to the third before Cal used a big run once again to take the lead. After the score was tied 3-3, the Bears scored five straight and 10 of the next 11 for a 13-4 advantage. A service ace from Blevins made it 18-8 and Cal closed out the sweep with two kills apiece from Schmidt and Hamm.
Cal outhit Alabama A&M .446--.031, won the dig battle 28-16 and recorded eight service aces to just three for the Bulldogs.