Considering that the Cal women’s volleyball team was an abysmal 9-21 last season, it is a big deal that the team currently sits at 2-1. After two convincing wins in the Cal Molten Classic, the Bears are off to an optimistic start this season.
“We are still a pretty inexperienced team and really just have one player who has a lot of experience playing Division 1 volleyball,” Cal head coach Matt McShane said. “Senior Christine Alftin, one of our captains, had a really good weekend, and we rely on her for a lot of things, and it was important that she had a great weekend. There are a couple seniors who haven’t had the opportunity to play too much in their careers who are now starting and really stepped up over the weekend.”
Despite their inexperience, the Bears will look to extend their winning streak as they open up the Cal Classic on Friday against Dartmouth. On Saturday, the team will first take on Eastern Washington and then Texas Tech later in the night.
When Dartmouth takes on Cal, it will be the Big Green’s first game of the season. For the Bears, this presents a bit of a challenge as they have no game tape on their first opponents. However, the team will prepare for the unexpected as they did for the Cal Molten Classic.
Eastern Washington currently sits at 1-2 on the season and is led by senior Ashley Seiler, who currently leads the Big Sky Conference in kills. Cal will definitely be looking to neutralize Seiler and force some other players on the Eagles to step up.
“Eastern Washington has a couple of very good players, and we are going to try to focus our defense on trying to slow down these players and make sure that the other players do not have a big night against us,” McShane said.
Lastly, Texas Tech is 1-0 on the season, as it was forced to skip the Barcelona HBU Classic in Houston because of Hurricane Harvey. Like Cal, the Red Raiders had a down season last year, going 10-21, so they will be coming into this tournament with the hopes of having some positive play ahead of their Big-12 schedule.
As for Cal, it will still be looking to improve and get better. Of particular focus in practice this week was better blocking, particularly on the left side, improved consistency on sets and trying to speed up the offense. With a full week of practice, it will be interesting to see how Cal responds, especially in these facets of its game. The important thing is that with an extremely young team like Cal, the more repetitions and experience they get, the better players they will become.
“We’re lucky enough when you look at our stats from last weekend that we have really good balance,” McShane said. “We had a lot of hitters that hit for high percentages, so when you are scouting us, it is tough because it is hard to pick one or two players to focus on because we have players that can have big nights if you don’t pay attention to them.”
Certainly, this will be something that Cal will be looking to exploit. With plenty of personnel eager to contribute and earn minutes for the remainder of the season, everybody will look to put their best foot forward.
With three very winnable games on the slate, there is no reason Cal can’t come out on top in all three. If the Bears can pull out wins, it will serve as a huge confidence boost heading into their remaining schedule. Only time will tell if the Bears can continue their form from last weekend.
Praveen Kuruppu covers volleyball. Contact him at