The Cal women’s volleyball team no longer feels just the heat; the team is seriously sweating.
With 10 games left on the schedule, Cal will face six opponents it has already played and failed to beat this year.
To make matters worse, the team is in danger of not finishing above .500, currently sitting at 10-10.
The Bears (10-10, 4-6) need to win now if they hope to stretch their NCAA aspirations.
The stretch starts against Arizona (12-9, 4-6) on Friday at 6 p.m. in Haas Pavillion.
“It’s in the back of everyone’s mind that we have to win this game,” senior Shannon Hawari said. “(Arizona) is not quite as challenging as teams like USC (No. 7) or Washington (No. 5), so we need to come in focused and jump on them.”
The last time the Bears faced the Wildcats, in a Sept. 30 bout, they began the tilt unfocused, dropping the first set against a team they were expected to sweep.
However, the team responded with three straight-set victories to win the match in four.
During the match, Cal played some of its best volleyball on the year, effectively neutralizing Arizona’s two-setter offense with strong serving and disciplined defense.
“We woke up after game one last time,” coach Rich Feller said. “It was the glimmer of where we can go with this team if we keep working at it.”
Although the game seemed to indicate changing tides for the Bears at the time, the squad now limps into the match against the Wildcats in the midst of a 2-4 slide.
The losses came at the hands of superior ranked opponents such as No. 3 Oregon.
Furthermore, the victories will not impress the NCAA selection committee because they came against unranked, bottom-feeders such as Washington State.
Cal feels that key to beating Arizona is to rediscovering its potent defense.
Since the game in Tucson, the Bears have struggled with the transition from offense to defense, often seeming surprised when opponents dig Cal’s kill.
“For the better opponents we have played, the big difference in their game is when we blast the ball, they dig it and fire back at us,” Feller said. “Sometimes that transition is too fast, so we are trying to put ourselves in a position to reload and fire back.”
The defense’s lack of discipline has been a point of emphasis in practice, but the Bears can prevent their defense from becoming a major issue by working on their own offense.
If the Bears can both serve and hit accurately, they can slow the two setter system by taking whichever setter is in the front row and forcing her to make a pass instead of being available for a potential kill.
But for the ability to enact this strategy depends on one thing: passing.
“Serving and passing is a cliche and not very exciting, but whole game is based on them, and everything else is for the fans,” Feller said.
Austin Crochetiere covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]
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