Crosson Over: Assistant Key In New Offense's Success

Assistant Coach Sam Crosson Brought a New Offense With Him From St. Mary's to Berkeley

Photo: Carli Lloyd leads the Bears with 342 assists this season. The two-time All-American has anchored a relatively young, inexperienced squad to drop only one set over 10 games.
Kellen Freeman/File
Carli Lloyd leads the Bears with 342 assists this season. The two-time All-American has anchored a relatively young, inexperienced squad to drop only one set over 10 games.

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"Sam's a traitor."

The chant came out of nowhere, so unexpected that it wasn't discernible in McKeon Pavilion at first.

"Sam's a traitor."

The shout grew louder, now audible, but still a little puzzling. After all, why would the St. Mary's men's basketball team be heckling the Cal volleyball team's assistant coach?

Sam Crosson coached the Gaels for five years before he joined Rich Feller's staff at Cal in February. As the top assistant, his tactics and recruiting helped lead St. Mary's to back-to-back 20-win seasons the past two years, the latter of which was the school's first WCC championship.

That didn't seem to matter to the shirtless men's basketball team who congregated in the front of the student section to taunt Crosson on Saturday.

"I wasn't expecting to be heckled coming back here," Crosson said. "But at the same time, it's all in good fun If they want to pick on a coach instead of the players, kudos to them, I guess."

Crosson said he had mixed emotions feeling to play his old team, comprised of players he recruited. Overall, he enjoyed the experiencing of returning to Moraga, Calif.

"There's a lot of familiar faces and great memories that go on in this place," he said. "It's a little bittersweet because you want to win, but you don't want to beat up on old friends."

The No. 10 Bears didn't beat up on the Gaels, but they won in straight sets (25-18, 25-22, 25-16) and played perhaps their most complete match of the season. Statistically, Cal played St. Mary's tougher than No. 1 Stanford did the previous night - the Cardinal won in four sets.

Having Crosson, the architect of both squad's fast-paced offensive schemes, in blue and gold didn't make things any easier for the Bears (10-0) to start the match. The Gaels (7-5) looked invincible the first few points.

Cal outside hitter Tarah Murrey, the Bear's go-to hitter who averages 4.71 kills per set, went up for a kill on the first play, only to be stuffed by two St. Mary's defenders. The very next play, Gaels' outside hitter Lauren Corp leapt to record a kill over two Cal defenders.

Two plays later, she did it again.

The Bears, usually the squad that obliterates its opponent in the first set, were facing an early deficit and a ferocious defense. Gradually, they adapted.

"It was kind of trying to give (our team) enough of the big picture things and then a few smaller adjustments as the match went on to kind of show them different reactions," Crosson said. "The girls were great tonight about making small adjustments and changing what they need to do."

Cal just needed a little time to adjust to the St. Mary's blocking and digging. The Bears started altering their kills, hitting the ball different ways, whether it be location or hitting stroke.

"I actually think this is the best we've played so far this season," senior setter Carli Lloyd, who posted a double-double with 35 assists and 11 digs, said. "St. Mary's is a great team. They have crazy good ball control, and they're so stable They're hard to read sometimes. They're a good challenge."


Jonathan Kuperberg covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]

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