Summer break is coming to an end soon, and while it is nice to unwind and relax at home (or work, whatever) there are some things missing in life: School friends, campus life, and oh yeah… Cal Sports!
But even after Baseball season ended and the Cal Athletic year came to an end, there were still ways you could catch Cal athletes perform. However, it may not be the way you might be thinking.
Yes, all the talk this year in Cal related Pro sports was, among others, former Cal Bears Aaron Rodgers and Jason Kidd winning championships. Not to mention Cal Baseball and the great players that are currently in Major League Baseball.
However, the biggest story of the summer was watching several Cal athletes rise to stardom in their respective sports. And yet, it’s very likely most Cal students, and even most of us Golden Bear fans, never even watched them perform here.
In the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the shocking comeback win against Brazil had many Americans beginning to pay attention to Women’s Soccer. We’ve seen stars like Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm become American icons, and in the WWC we saw potential stars like Abby Wambach and Hope Solo lead the team to the finals. But it was Alex Morgan who stole the show in the finals.
The youngest player on the roster, who in the tournament came into all but one game as a substitute, scored and assisted in the eventual shootout loss to Japan. Morgan has been making contributions to Team USA for a good year now, even being with the team at the same time as being a Senior on the Cal Women’s Soccer roster in the Fall 2010 semester. Team USA may not have won the finals and Morgan didn’t get the game winning goal after all that, but it is expected that she could become the next big star in Women’s Soccer, especially with the Olympics coming up next year. When you see young girls wishing they were like Morgan and when kids start having posters of her on their walls, remember that she’s a Cal Bear!
Of course, female athletes from Cal making worldwide headlines isn’t new. After an amazing run in the 2008 Olympic Games, Natalie Coughlin became a name everyone following the games recognized. After winning six medals three years ago, she appears to be back at it, helping the US to the silver medal at the FINA Long Course World Championships in Shanghai. She didn’t do it alone either, as two of her teammates is fellow Cal alum Dana Vollmer, who individually won a Gold medal in the 100-meter Butterfly event, and another Cal alum in Jessica Hardy.
Before Dana even turned 18, she along with Coughlin helped the Americans win a Gold medal in the 2004 Olympic games in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay. After failing to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, it is expected that Vollmer will be one of the top swimmers in next year’s Olympics in London. Hardy, winner of four Gold medals in the 2010 Pan Pacific Championship but barred from the 2008 Olympics after taking contaminated supplements, has been cleared to play in the 2012 Olympics.
While not getting the same amount of attention the FIFA Women’s World Cup received, the World Cup of Softball was on ESPN last weekend, and Team USA went on to win the championship. Leading the team in RBIs was Valerie Arioto, one of the best players on the Cal Softball team, which is saying something since the whole team is very good. (Going to the World Series last year WITHOUT her!)
Unlike everyone else mentioned in the article, you still have a chance to see her play for yourself as a Cal Bear (at a pretty low price if not for free). Due to an unfortunate preseason leg injury, Arioto was forced to miss what would have been her final season last year. Instead, she redshirted and will play her Senior season this year, hopefully without any setbacks. Given that NO players on the roster wound up graduating, the 5th place Bears will return next year completely intact and with Arioto back, one can expect a lot of things from the Cal Softball team next year.
As stated earlier, Arioto had a team-high 11 RBIs including a Grand Slam against Japan, a (game winning) bases clearing triple against Australia and another home run which helped seal the deal against Great Britain. She played in all six games at First Base, but is also an amazing pitcher.
Sadly, Softball along with Baseball were cut from the Olympic program for the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, meaning we won’t see her talents in front of a larger audience (or other great Cal baseball and softball athletes for that matter).m Still, as Softball coverage continues to grow, Cal fans will know who to look for, and hopefully so will the rest of the country and the world.
Imagine rooting on for Morgan, Hardy, Vollmer and Coughlin in the Olympics next year, just a short while after rooting on Arioto and Cal in the Women’s College World Series (still pains me not to include her in that previous sentence) in addition to rooting for Cal players in the men’s pro sports. (And as you probably know, there are many) Summer 2012 will be quite an enjoyable to watch Golden Bears play, you just may not know it.