Beach volleyball doesn’t always come with a nearby ocean — oftentimes sand pits are landlocked — yet, somehow Cal beach volleyball still manages to knock their opponents out of the water.
Extending their winning streak, the Bears outcompeted all four of their opponents in the Stanford Tournament this weekend, improving to a 7-1 record.
The tournament started off on Friday with duals against Boise State and Arizona State.
Making their debut as Cal’s No. 1 pair this weekend, freshmen Mima Mirkovic and Alexia Inman had a close matchup with the Broncos’ sophomore Janell Walley and junior Sabryn Roberts but ultimately won without needing a tiebreaker.
At the No. 2 spot, senior Jessica Gaffney and sophomore Iya Lindley dominated against their Boise State opponents, taking the match, 21-9, 21-7.
Their second match of the day wasn’t as breezy. Though the duo beat the Sun Devils’ junior Natalie Braun and senior Frances Giedraitis, 21-13, in the first set, Arizona State pushed a third set with its 22-20 win. When all was said and done, Gaffney and Lindley finished on top, clinching the dual with their 15-9 victory.
“The first set we were just playing our game, and in the second set they made some adjustments, and we kind of went away from our game plan,” Gaffney said. “We started serving the wrong person and not doing what we said we were going to do. Going into the third set, we just threw our heads on, focused and executed our strategy.”
The No. 1 and No. 2 pairs weren’t the only successful Bears on Friday.
At the No. 4 spot, junior Mia Merino and freshman Caroline Schafer didn’t drop a single set in either match. Cal’s No 5. pair — junior Grace Campbell and freshman Maddie Micheletti — also won both their matches.
With only one loss to Arizona State from Cal’s No. 3 pair, the day concluded with a 5-0 win over Boise and a 4-1 win over Arizona State.
Saturday’s competition was bound to be more difficult, with No. 18 Tulane joining San Jose State on Cal’s schedule. Tension along with excitement was running high prior to the dual, as several Bears had previously played with members of the Green Wave.
“Going into Tulane, we were just fired up,” Gaffney said. “We had watched them play earlier in the day — we kind of knew what to expect. We knew going into it that they were going to underestimate us and that we were the underdogs — we just wanted to show them who we are.”
The whole team did its job, allowing Tulane to take no more than just a single set and ending the 5-0 dual with Cal’s third win of the weekend. Four of the Bears’ five matches were determined in quick, two-set wins. The 5-0 win against San Jose State later that day was the icing on the cake.
“We were smooth the entire day,” said head coach Meagan Owusu. “We really started playing at a high level and maintained a high consistency for the entire day. This weekend was really a full team effort — our one pair to our six pair played at a high level.”
The weekend was a big test of the team’s ability, placing the players against previously seen opponents as well as nationally ranked competition.
Not only does coming out ahead with all four wins establish who Cal beach volleyball is to other schools, but it also affirms the program’s ability to the players themselves.
“We know the level of play that we are capable of, but to go out and execute it for four matches in a row is really impressive,” Owusu said. “There’s a new confidence within the squad.”
With no ocean in site, Cal still put together a wavy performance.
Surina Khurana covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]