Scorching hot Cal volleyball to face St. Mary’s, Pacific

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Leslie Yang/File

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Cal Volleyball is working to continue its surprising 8-1 season opening record against Saint Mary’s and Pacific this weekend. After recently sweeping the Rice Invitational against Rice, Louisiana and Incarnate Word, Cal has the upper hand in its upcoming matches. Saint Mary’s has a higher-performing defense with avid amount of blocks and digs, but the Bears have a solid offense with strong kills, so it should be a captivating match.

“I don’t pay attention to it (the statistics),” said Cal head coach Matt McShane. “Saint Mary’s is what we have next. I really don’t pay much attention to the wins and losses. Today, we got better. You know, we got a little bit better today, and that’s what I pay attention to. Every day, get a little bit better try and play close to our best tomorrow, and then we’ll see with the wins and losses — what happens.”

Saint Mary’s is known for having a steady defense, and it adds 12.2 kills per set. In particular, juniors Alex O’Sullivan and Morgan Hughes (middle back and outside hitter respectively) have more than 30 blocks and kills individually and could present a challenge to Call Volleyball on Friday.

“Yes, those two especially have hit for a very high percentage,” McShane said. “They run an offense that is a little bit — there is a portion of the country that runs an offense like theirs, so we have been preparing for a couple of days. … Saint Mary’s also has a couple of really talented players that we have to pay attention to, and we are trying to hold those players down for each one of those teams, but we know that they are going to do well, they are both very good teams.”

Until now, Cal has been facing less-accomplished teams and didn’t need fierce strategies to win. For this weekend, it will have to focus on harder and higher balls closer to the net. Cal is working on its jump serves to have more powerful attacks and aces. Since it is facing teams with tougher defenses, it will be working on having fewer blocking and serving errors.

“Something we definitely have been working on coming into Saint Mary’s: They run a really fast offense, so we’ve been working on blocking and digging against the fast offense,” said senior outside hitter Christine Alftin. “And they’re definitely good blockers, they have some good outside hitters, they are timed, hitting experienced. We’ve been working on hitting high and hitting hard, and since we’ve been playing, for lack of a better word, less-experienced teams, we’ve been hitting low-seam hard balls, but now that we are playing more experienced and talented teams, we’re going to start hitting higher and harder.”

Pacific is on a similar level with Cal in terms of offense, having 506 kills, 493 digs, 472 set assists. Pacific is 4-5 and will be a worthy opponent of Cal with an equally strong defense and offense. Sophomore Emily Baptista has 132 kills and 60 digs.

“We’ve been watching a lot of videos on them, and we are really confident in our ability to defend (Baptista),” said senior Antzela Dempi. “Definitely, she is a great player. We played against her in the spring, played against Pacific in the spring, and we ended up beating them in the spring. She’s a great player, but we’ve been watching a lot of videos, so we should be fine.”

Samantha Valdez covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]