Fall 2008 Sports Awards

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Best Male Athlete: Jahvid Best

Tailback Jahvid Best began the 2008 season facing an inordinate amount of questions regarding his durability, his ability to be an every-down back and his chances of finding success without a bruiser to feature as the thunder to his lightning.

The sophomore answered all that, and did so in stunning fashion, growing stronger as the Bears' regular season came to an end last Saturday. The tailback finished with 1,394 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, 628 and seven of those coming in Cal's final three games.

As announced yesterday, Best garnered first-team All-Pac-10 honors at running back alongside Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers. It was the second time that he has earned such a distinction; Best had done the same as a kick returner in 2007.

After showing flashes of brilliance last year as backup to recent graduate Justin Forsett, the sophomore has cemented his status as one of the conference's, if not the nation's, bona fide big-play threats. Best finished the season with an 8.0 yards-per-carry average, good for first in the country among tailbacks with at least 120 carries.

He also exploded for seven different rushes of 60 yards or more in 2008.

Although the Bears settled for just a fourth-place finish in the Pac-10, the sophomore gave Cal fans a season to remember.

Best became the only Bears tailback to rush for 200 or more yards three times in his career, and he did so in one year, though the last of the three instances remains more memorable than the others. Against Washington in the regular-season finale, Best rushed for 311 yards, setting a Cal single-game record.

And as if his ground-game endeavors weren't enough, the tailback also ended 2008 with 27 receptions, a team high, adding 246 yards and another touchdown to his offensive totals.

All things considered, it's no surprise that Best was one of the Bears' three most valuable players as voted by the team during Sunday's team banquet.

The Pac-10 rushing title, the all-conference honors, and the timing of his career day against the Huskies combine to make sophomore tailback Jahvid Best the Daily Cal's Best Male Athlete of the Fall 2008 semester.

-Andrew Kim

Best Coach: Steve Desimone

With big-name sports like football and volleyball running simultaneously, it's understandable that most people tended to overlook the understated Cal men's golf team this fall.

But while the Bears might not be making a lot of noise, they've posted one of the best turnarounds from one season to the next of any squad on campus, and much of that is due to the efforts of Steve Desimone.

After finishing 20th in the NCAA West Regional to end the 2008 spring season, Desimone got the Bears off to a quick start this fall. Cal started the 2008-09 campaign by winning both the individual and team titles at the San Francisco Intercollegiate in early September. The win catapulted the Bears into the national rankings for the first time since their 2004 national championship season.

"He's just told us to work hard. That we're a pretty good team, but if we just believe in ourselves we could be a really great team," sophomore Stephen Hale said. "He's just a huge supporter of everybody. He's been helping us out a lot, especially with the newer guys."

On the heels of its championship performance in San Francisco, Cal took third in the Wolverine Intercollegiate and second in the Husky Invitational.

Considering there has only been one addition to the team-junior transfer John Murphy-it's safe to say that Desimone's had the primary hand in bringing the Bears up from the middle of the Pac-10 into legitimate title contenders this season.

"He's a pretty intense guy, but he directs that towards making us better," Hale said. "He has really good people skills, and he knows how to make us work. He pushes us to the limit, but not too far."

And what is the limit for Cal this season? After lifting the 2004 national title trophy, you can bet that Desimone's got his eye on another one this spring, and you might just want to keep an eye on the Bears.

-Katie Dowd

Best Newcomer: Bryan Anger

Remember Andrew Larson?

At the moment, neither do we.

Before redshirt freshman Bryan Anger came on the scene, special teams standing ovations were reserved solely for dazzling returns and decapitating blocks.

But nowadays, it's Cal's punter that's turning heads.

And the highly touted Camarillo, Calif., native didn't take long to make his presence known at Memorial Stadium.

Against Michigan State in the Bears' first game of the season, "Banger" had three punts of 50 or more yards, pinning the Spartans inside their own 20-yard line on three occasions as well.

But for his hot start, Anger had been hampered by midseason inconsistency.

Three times Anger's average dipped below 40 yards in a game, including a 33-yards-per-punt clip against UCLA.

But as the season wound down, Anger would hit his stride again.

Refer back to Anger's 76-yard boot against Stanford three weeks ago-the fourth longest punt in school history-or the 25 times he forced opposing teams to start at or inside their own redzone.

Anger's 43.7 yards per punt average is good for 14th in the country, and with 66 attempts, he's seen more action than 12 of the people ahead of him.

With those types of numbers, people all over the nation have taken notice.

Anger was the only Pac-10 punter, and freshman, to be a semifinalist for the Ray Guy trophy, awarded to the top collegiate punter. And as a result of his play, the Pac-10 chose him as one of just two freshmen (along with Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers) to garner all-conference honors.

- Jon Doss

Best Female Athlete: Hana Cutura

Ask her teammates to describe junior All-American outside hitter Hana Cutura, and their assessment is usually about the same.

"Hana is a beast," sophomore setter Carli Lloyd said.

Lloyd should know what she's talking about. In her two seasons with the No. 8 Cal volleyball team, Lloyd has set two-year All-American selection Angie Pressey and standout middle blocker Ellen Orchard, a duo that took the Bears to the Final Four last season.

So what makes Cutura the "beast" that her teammates term her?

Cutura's having a career year in five different categories and is also on pace to break her single-season kills record (she currently has 482). Not only that, she is second in the conference and 13th in the country in kills per set-with 4.42-and is hitting .303, easily the best attacking rate of her career. Her 5.06 points per set also lead the conference.

But what truly makes Cutura the best female athlete on campus is her presence on the court.

No player draws more cheers from the crowd than Cutura, who is undoubtedly one of the hardest hitters in the entire nation. When Cutura lands a hardwood-destroying, cross-court kill, it's hard to find a fan in the stands-home or away-who doesn't have their jaw on the floor.

And no player intimidates more than the 6-foot-4 Cutura, who frequently gets scared looks from her opponents during warm-up drills. Up front, Cutura also has 15 solo and 44 block assists, establishing her presence both as a hitter and as a solid blocker.

All that adds up to the most important and consistent offensive cog on the team, whose performance often dictates the outcome of the match for Cal.

- Katie Dowd


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