At Cal, we are more than familiar with the aftermath of losing an incredible quarterback. Perhaps current students only know Aaron Rodgers as the alumnus that won the Super Bowl last season, but I remember him as the savior of Cal football that brought us some respectability.
After Rodgers bolted for the NFL, coach Jeff Tedford has yet to trot out a competent, let alone comparable, quarterback. We’ve just had a flurry of disappointments.
In volleyball, the setter is essentially the quarterback of the team. She’s the one that delivers the ball to attackers to get points, which requires remarkable rapport and timing with hitters, quick decision-making and the ability to read defenses.
The Cal volleyball team loses its quarterback this season in Carli Lloyd. But don’t expect it to mean the demise of the Bears as Rodgers’ departure proved to be.
Lloyd probably meant more to her team than Rodgers. The national Player of the Year, Lloyd instituted the new up-tempo offense that led to the squad’s incredible run to the conference title and first-ever appearance in the national title game.
More importantly, she was the heart and soul of the team. There was no doubt she was the leader on the court, keeping her teammates together and hitters focused for each point. She simply refused to let her team lose, and had a way of killing opponents’ momentum with a big play. Her intensity was infectious, and it’s hard to imagine the Bears going nearly as far last season without her.
This year, however, it seems quite plausible that Cal will achieve similar heights without the setter extraordinaire.
Lloyd had a lot of help with the meteoric rise of Tarah Murrey as one of the premier outside hitters in the nation. So long as Lloyd’s successor, Elly Barrett, can find Murrey on the outside, the Bears will be in great shape.
It has yet to be seen if Barrett will contribute the same kind of dynamic play that Lloyd did, or if she will have as well-rounded a game.
But frankly, the team doesn’t need her to be Lloyd. She doesn’t need to be the most vocal player on the court or fire her team up. That responsibility will be left to Murrey, the lone senior on the team, who was clearly part of the leadership core last year.
Barrett doesn’t have to try to learn a new offense like Lloyd did, or guide her teammates through such adjustments to their timing. The system is already in place. The Austin, Texas native just needs to be a competent setter. Given that she was an even more highly-sought after recruit than Lloyd, it’s safe to assume Barrett has that ability.
With two years waiting in the wings, Barrett amassed a significant amount of reps in practice with her attackers. Coach Rich Feller said she’s tightly bonded with her fellow juniors, many of whom she’ll be setting in the middle and right side, so chemistry shouldn’t be an issue.
Last year, the Bears lost Pac-10 Player of the Year in outside hitter Hana Cutura, and the preseason talk was focused mainly on how Cal would compensate for such a huge loss.
It only took a few weeks for Tarah Murrey to rise from the ashes of a disappointing sophomore campaign to emerge as one of the country’s best. Suddenly no one was mentioning Cutura anymore.
It would be foolish to assume that Barrett, who has not had experience starting, will have a similar breakout year. However, once she proves herself to be a capable setter, Lloyd’s name will start to fade and Barrett can begin building her own legacy.