Healthy Cal Ready for Shot at UCLA, 'SC

Photo: <b>Setter Carli Lloyd</b> had 59 assists against Arizona and 38 against Arizona State, playing a big part in the Bears' sweep last weekend. Lloyd is now averaging 11.21 assists per set.
Nick Fradkin/File
Setter Carli Lloyd had 59 assists against Arizona and 38 against Arizona State, playing a big part in the Bears' sweep last weekend. Lloyd is now averaging 11.21 assists per set.


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Photo: Settcr Carli Lloyd had 59 assists against Arizona and 38 against Arizona State, playing a big part in the Bears' sweep last weekend. Lloyd is now averaging 11.21 assists per set.   


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The last time the No. 14 Cal volleyball team faced off against both No. 11 UCLA and No. 16 USC, the team was riddled not with major injuries or poor play, but a flu bug that affected most of the team.

Hardcore sports fans would cite that Michael Jordan scored 38 points when running a fever of 103 degrees in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, but the Bears feel like their play will be vastly improved when they take the court against the Bruins tonight at 7 p.m., at Haas Pavilion.

"Last time we weren't healthy," middle hitter Mindi Wiley said. "A lot of us had nagging colds and little injuries and it all added up against us. We're going to be healthy and comfortable in our own gym."

Cal was coming off of a big win against Stanford when it traveled to face the Los Angeles schools three weeks ago, but the Bears feel they are playing their best volleyball of the year after dropping only one set last weekend against Arizona and Arizona State.

The difference between now and three weeks ago? Practice.

"Our mental game has really improved," senior libero Kristen Kathan said. "We've been more active and not waiting around for things to happen our way.

Added Wiley: "We have had a lot better practice this week. Last week we played much better of a team and now we are all healthy. We're expecting a highly competitive game. We're excited."

The catalyst in the Bears' recent success has been the play of senior outside hitter Hana Cutura. Cutura was named both the AVCA National Player of the Week and Pac-10 Player of the Week after a dominating weekend where she racked up 52 kills, hit an even .600 and committed only four errors.

While Cutura's weekend performance was impressive in any context, she will be going up against the second-best blocking unit in the Pac-10 led by sophomore middle blocker Amanda Gil.

Gil, a San Jose native, leads the Pac-10 in total blocks with 119, a large margin ahead of Stanford's Janet Okogbaa, who is second in the conference with 96.

While UCLA and Cal almost always manage to give one another tough matches, Friday's match will probably be the last between two club teammates that have competed against one another for the last four years.

Cal senior Mindi Wiley and UCLA fifth-year senior Kaitlin Sather played on Empire Club Volleyball before heading off for college, and they have both been part of some memorable games during their respective collegiate tenures.

"It'll be senior and a super senior (Sather) in their last standoff," Wiley said. "It'll the last time that we face one another and it will be a really good match."


Contact Gabriel Baumgaertner at [email protected]



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