Back In Camp: Volleyball
BERKELEY – California volleyball reported to camp on Tuesday morning, ready to attack the new season with excitement and determination to show fans – and each other – their very best.
The team, operating under the mantra "one day better" to signify their goal of maximizing the time they have each day, is focusing on building a new foundation by increasing personal and group accountability as well as enjoying the time that they have together.
This squad is a close-knit one, following a full offseason and summer activities that senior Sydney Lilomaiava calls "the best time to build trust."
Last year, there was only the barest semblance of an offseason for the Bears, who were thrust back onto the court almost immediately following a spring season that had a number of players opt out and often required the team to semi-isolate from each other when traveling.
Now, the Bears are looking forward to their first "real" season following a full offseason since 2019 – a year when they finished with a record of 20-10.
Some key returners to the squad include outside hitter Leah Schmidt, who earned All-Tulane Tournament status last year and posted the third-most kills on the team, and middle blocker Lydia Grote, who posted 21 kills in the Oct. 17 match against Utah for the highest single-game total on the squad. Both were invited to the USA Volleyball National Team Open Program in recognition of their play. Setter Annalea Maeder led the Bears last year with 701 assists and 8 double-doubles; as a sophomore, she aims to further develop as a leader on the team.
Cal also has four highly-touted freshmen looking to impress this season. Middle blocker Mikayla Hayden (Buford, Georgia) comes off of a high school career in which she recorded over 1000 kills and two state championships, along with a slew of individual player honors. Fellow middle blocker Sophie Scott (Portland, Oregon) earned her way onto the 2021 State Postseason All-Star Team after a year in which she was named as one of PrepDig's top middle blockers and appeared on the AVCA Phenom Watch List. Outside hitter Peyton DeJardin (Pasadena) earned several accolades throughout her high school career, including an AVCA Third Team All-American nod and First Team All-State honors, while setter Natalie Lau (San Francisco) was last year's recipient of the Margi Beima Trophy, which is given to the top girls volleyball player in the San Francisco area, and made an appearance on the AVCA All-America Watch List.
"I think our group dynamics and culture have taken some very positive steps forward," said head coach Sam Crosson, who enters his fourth year in the position this season. "We have a core group established that has garnered a lot of experience over the past couple of seasons and have experienced a good deal of adversity – they're carrying a bit of a chip on their shoulder.
"Overall, there really is an underlying excitement," he concluded. "Everyone is hungry to see what this team can accomplish."
The Bears kick off the 2022 season against Army at the San Diego State Tournament. First serve is scheduled for Aug. 26 at 10:00 a.m. PT.
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