Cal Opens Conference Play With Big Spike
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BERKELEY – California volleyball (7-3) begins Pac-12 play this week with a bang, taking on No. 5 Stanford in the Big Spike on Wednesday, Sept. 21 before heading to Oregon State on Friday, Sept. 23.
The former match, which will be hosted at Haas Pavilion, is scheduled to commence at 8:00 p.m. PT on Wednesday. Stanford (5-3) faced a brutal start to its season that included losses to No. 1 Texas, No. 20 Penn State and No. 3 Louisville as well as wins over No. 13 Florida, No. 3 Minnesota and No. 2 Nebraska. The Cardinal currently lead the series against the Bears by a margin of 81-13; they currently rank 10th in the nation with 2.82 blocks per set.
Cal's matchup against Oregon State (5-5) will take place at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore., and is slated to begin at 6:00 p.m on Friday. Currently, the Beavers lead the conference with 15.51 digs per set, also outpacing the Bears in digs (605) and total attacks (1355); however, their team hitting percentage of .190 ranks last in the Pac-12. The Bears currently lead the series between the two teams, 50-29.
"This team is showing real progress – the specific skills and techniques that we spent time on during this past spring are starting to show more frequently in matches," said head coach Sam Crosson. "I think our team chemistry is one area that this group excels at. They really enjoy being around one another, playing for each other and cheering for each other's success on the court."
START 'EM YOUNG
After Week Four, Cal boasts the Pac-12's top two blocking freshmen in Sophie Scott and Mikayla Hayden. Both have started every match for the Golden Bears so far this season and currently rank No. 5 (37.0 total blocks) and No. 6 (36.0 total blocks), respectively, among all Pac-12 players. No other program boasts two players among the NCAA's top 15 freshmen in blocks per set (Hayden No. 5, Scott No. 12), while only Cal and Northwestern State boast multiple entries in the NCAA's top 20 freshmen in total blocks (Hayden No. 11, Scott No. 16).
Junior Lydia Grote has posted a fantastic start to the season, accumulating 158 kills across 10 games for the Pac-12's second-highest total thus far. Grote also leads the Pac-12 in points (187.0) and points per set (4.92, 21st NCAA), as well as ranking third in kills per set (4.16, 30th in the nation). Her play in Week Two of the season earned her All-Utah Valley Tournament honors.
Cal currently ranks 15th in the nation (3rd Pac-12) in opponent hitting percentage, holding 10 different teams so far to a combined .144. The Bears also rank 20th in the nation (4th Pac-12) with 2.68 blocks per set. Currently, they are second in the conference with 15.34 digs per set (60th NCAA) and third with 102.0 total blocks (68th NCAA).
USA VOLLEYBALL TAKES NOTICE
Juniors Lydia Grote and Leah Schmidt participated in the 2022 USA Volleyball National Team Open Program on Feb. 25-27, scoring invitations after stellar sophomore seasons. Grote's 2021 campaign included a 21-kill game (vs. Utah, Oct. 17) and a 15-kill, .344-hitting percentage outing against Washington State (Nov. 11). Schmidt, meanwhile, was named to the 2021 All-Tulane Tournament team and subsequently posted the third-most kills on the team (200) during the season as one of Cal's most prolific players.
Sophomore Annalea Maeder is on pace to far surpass her stellar freshman campaign, in which she led the Bears with 701 assists and 8 double-doubles. In her young 2022 season, she recently recorded a career-high 52 assists and 14 digs in the Bears' Sept. 2 win over Northern Arizona, as well as a 51 assist, 14-dig outing against UC Davis on Sept. 17 that put her over 300 assists on the season and 1,000 in her collegiate career. Cal volleyball's lone international student-athlete is also a star in the classroom, majoring in molecular environmental biology, and participates in a student-run business consulting club whose clients include various Fortune 500 companies nationwide.
This year, Cal brings in four highly-touted prospects from around the country to help bolster its squad. Middle blocker Mikayla Hayden (Buford, Ga.) was one of the best high school players in the state of Georgia, posting over 1,000 kills in her career in addition to 2 state championships and several All-Region and All-County nods. Fellow middle blocker Sophie Scott (Portland, Ore.) earned her way onto multiple State and All-League teams, while outside hitter Peyton DeJardin (Pasadena, Calif.) reached Third Team All-American status in 2021. Setter Natalie Lau (San Francisco) rounds out the group, coming off a season where she earned a spot on the All-America Watch List and the All-WCAL First Team.