Cal beach volleyball makes history with win over St. Mary’s

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From owning their highest regular season ranking at No. 13 to beating a top-five-ranked school, 2018 has been a year of firsts for Cal beach volleyball.

The Bears added another achievement to their long list of accomplishments Tuesday as they recorded a program high of 20 wins with their 3-2 victory over St. Mary’s.

The Bears and Gaels entered the match in familiar territory. Last April, the two teams entered a dual match with the season series tied at one apiece, but it was St. Mary’s that took the rubber match.

Cal’s loss to St. Mary’s in its season opener was the only blemish on the team’s record for a month, but the Bears’ 4-1 win over the Gaels tied the teams back up at one apiece.

“Even before going over to St. Mary’s, we had a team meeting to go over our goals,” said freshman Maddie Micheletti. “We have words that we have associated with our team and how we want to perform — resilient, relentless, disciplined and focused.”

The Bears took the courts eager for yet another win in Moraga to avenge last year’s series loss. Cal took the first three duals right away, claiming the win despite the losses that later followed on courts 1 and 2.

“Going into the game with that confidence — that we have beat them before — but giving them the respect they deserved was something that really helped us win that match,” Micheletti said.

Micheletti and junior Grace Campbell defeated their opponents on court 5 in straight sets, 21-13, 21-11. The pair, now 23-1, is ranked second out of all the No. 5 pairs in the nation.

“It’s honestly unbelievable,” Micheletti said. “Going into this season I had no idea that Grace and I would be put together to begin with, and also that we would be doing so well as the five. We’re just so alike each other, we don’t take things too seriously and work really well as a team.”

After Cal checking St. Mary’s off its task list, the Bears now look forward to hosting Stanford at the Clark Kerr Sand Courts on Saturday.

The Big Spike will be the picnic of the year, featuring a food truck, bounce house, music and more. But even better than all of that will be the showdown between No. 12 Stanford and No. 13 Cal.

Last weekend, the Cardinal toppled the Bears 3-2 in Cal’s final dual of the Pac-12 North  Tournament. Having played each other so recently, the teams know what to expect going into this weekend but have little time to ready themselves.

Micheletti says that more than anything, the team needs to have confidence in themselves and each other while still respecting the Cardinal foes and the level of competition they will bring.

“Proving ourselves this weekend will be great, especially going into Pac-12s the weekend afterward,” Micheletti said. “We’ve trained all year for this, and it’s our last game for the seniors at home.”

Surina Khurana covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].