The 2014 season was a forgettable one for Cal volleyball, as the team struggled with youth and unfortunately snapped its streak of 12 consecutive NCAA appearances. There were, however, many positive takeaways from the team and traces of hope for this upcoming season, especially with the continued emergence of the team’s returning starting libero, junior Maddy Kerr.
Kerr has carved out a pivotal role in her first two seasons on the team as a defensive specialist, and she consistently accrued double-digit digs in her matches. The junior was named to the All-Pac-12 Freshman team as an important cog in the Bears’ NCAA bid her first year, and she had the ninth-best mark in the Pac-12 with an average of 3.71 digs per set. As a freshman, she also tied a school record with 33 digs against Oregon.
Kerr has the potential to play a much larger role for Cal’s 2015 campaign. On the court, she demonstrated the ability to provide an impact for the Bears by racking up digs to set up the offense. Her two years of experience as a starter have also paved the way for her to take a leadership role on the team next year.
“It will be her third year as the starting libero, and she’s one of our captains, along with Lillian (Schonewise),” said assistant coach Jennifer Dorr. “She has really taken it upon herself to be a good communicator and a hard worker.”
The Bears’ biggest problem last season was their inability to produce points. Given Kerr’s ability to set the team up for offense, this shouldn’t have been as big of an issue as it was. She led the team in digs last season with 462 and was second on the team in assists with 75 assists. The departure of Adrienne Gehan, who led the team in kills in 2013, was one of the main reasons the team’s offense sputtered throughout last season, despite stellar outings from Schonewise, who put up a .345 hitting percentage — the seventh-best mark in the Pac-12.
“(Kerr is) supposed to be touching a lot of the first contact on our court so she has a big role for the team next season,” Dorr said.
Kerr, along with the rest of the returning members of the team, has been working hard since the beginning of this year to continue improving as an individual and to help change Cal’s fortune heading into next season.
“This spring, we were able to be together as a group, starting in January, when they got back from Christmas break, so they trained when school started in January all the way till the end in April,” Dorr said.
In addition to Kerr’s potential to break out in a bigger role next season, there remains reason for further optimism about the team’s prospects in the upcoming season. The Bears have another top-10 recruiting class on its way, headlined by outside hitters Savannah Rennie and Belen Castillo, libero Amanda Kirtley and middle blocker Sarah Shafiq. This influx of new talent and depth might just be the spark the Bears need to supplement veterans such as Kerr as the team looks to get back to its winning ways next year.
Shiktij Dave is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].