Fresh off a trio of wins last week, Cal beach volleyball will have another packed slate as it travels to Palo Alto this weekend and plays four duals in just two days.
At the Stanford Tournament, Cal will face Boise State and Arizona State on Friday before taking on Tulane and San Jose State on Saturday.
Although the tournament will be held at Stanford, the Bears will have to wait until conference play before they match up against the hosts.
“Our upcoming tournament is a big test of our abilities,” said head coach Meagan Owusu.
The first test of the Bears’ ability will be when they play Boise State, which will open its season against Tulane just before playing Cal on Friday afternoon. The Broncos nearly prevailed against the Bears last year, but they fell, 3-2, despite taking the wins at the No. 1 and 2 spots.
Second on the day, but not in ability, will be Arizona State (2-4). The team has a losing record, but all of its losses were all to ranked opponents.
Two of their other losses were to now-No. 6 Cal Poly — one of the strongest beach volleyball programs in the nation.
Neither least nor last is Tulane, which Cal will play to start Saturday. With just three matches under its belt, the Green Wave (2-1) will have to come out strong this weekend to prove its ranking is well-deserved.
Cal’s final match of the weekend will be against SJSU, a team which the Bears beat last week, 4-1 — with that one loss coming at the No. 1 spot.
Despite the recent strong performances, freshman Mima Mirkovic said the team hasn’t forgotten about their season-opening 3-2 loss to St. Mary’s two weeks ago.
“We lost to St. Mary’s in our first game,” Mirkovic said. “I think we learned from that not to be nervous and work harder.”
Mirkovic and fellow freshman teammate Alexia Inman have taken this mindset into recent practices and worked their way to own the No. 2 spot in the team’s last two matches. They head into this weekend as Cal’s sole undefeated pair.
“We were really delighted when we saw that we were the (No. 2) and we just wanted to use that opportunity to show that we can continue our streak,” Mirkovic said. “It was definitely important for us to not worry about where we’re placed as much as just getting that win to grow our program.”
Mirkovic and Inman head into this weekend as Cal’s sole undefeated pair. Aside from this duo, three of the Bears’ other four pairs have only dropped one match.
“The lineup is really fluid,” Mirkovic said. “People are going to move around based on competition during practice that week. That week, Alexia and I just took advantage of practice and really focused on developing and strengthening our game.”
Whether or not the coaches change the lineup again for this weekend, whoever plays will maintain the self-focused mindset that Owusu consistently emphasizes.
“We are playing some really talented teams,” Owusu said. “We are looking to maintain our focus of our side of the net and to prepare for some big competition moments and opportunities to grow our program.”
Surina Khurana covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]