Youth Key to Ending Legacy of Futility

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Ignorance isn't always a bad thing.

Considering the Cal volleyball team's history against this weekend's opponents, a healthy dose of amnesia and/or denial can only help.

In the case of the youthful Bears (11-1, 2-1 in the Pac-10), it may be the key to success this weekend when they take on No. 13 UCLA, which owns a 42-0 edge in the all-time series, tomorrow night at Haas.

They get a date with No. 1 USC, a squad they haven't beaten in almost 11 years and 20 matches, the following night.

"History doesn't matter," Leah Young, the team's lone senior, said. "It is all about the present and the future."

The future is something the Bears have been seeing a lot of early this season.

Freshmen Jenna Brown, Alicia Powers and Alexis Kollias have all made the leap from high school to the collegiate ranks smoothly and are anxious to make history this weekend.

"This is a great opportunity for the young players to really make their mark," coach Rich Feller said. "This is a brand new year, and it will be good to have some fresh faces out there who have no preconceived notions about the past."

This may give the naive Bears an indirect advantage as they settle into the thick of the Pac-10 schedule.

"At the beginning of the season I was very nervous and anxious," Powers said. "But now that we are into the flow of the Pac-10 schedule things are calming down."

Cal gained confidence by sweeping its Oregon road trip last week by gutting out a pair of close wins, and the newcomers are a big reason why.

Brown set career highs in kills, on back-to-back nights this past weekend with 19 then 20. Powers has brought order and stability to the middle, something that has been missing in the past. Kollias has adjusted nicely to the libero position, which was just newly instated by the NCAA this season.

"I don't feel like a freshman anymore, except when they make me take care of the water cart," Powers said.

The Bears have spent most of the week preparing for UCLA, rather than USC, who they play Saturday.

"It is normal to prepare more for the first game more than the second," Feller explained. "The hope is to win the first game to have momentum for the second game."

Young concurs with her coach.

"We have spent more time on UCLA, watching film and trying to simulate them in practice. We are not looking past or giving up on USC, but just preparing for the all important opening match first."

It may also be the more winnable match.

While USC (10-0, 4-0) has looked unbeatable this season, the Bruins lost the opening two Pac-10 games on the road before recovering with a sweep of Washington and Washington State at home.

"We know UCLA is good, but we don't know how good," Feller said. "They have a couple of Pac-10 loses already, but that is the nature of the conference."

Both matches start at 7 p.m. in Haas Pavilion.


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