One reason to follow Cal beach volleyball: The team is one of the few on campus that is actually competitive with Stanford. The Bears and the Cardinal have been widely recognized archrivals for ages, and that comes out just as strong on the sand as it does on the court or the field.
The No. 11 Cal beach volleyball team has been competing with its cross-bay rivals since the conception of the program in 2014. At the time, the Cardinal program had just one year of experience over the Bears, giving Stanford enough of an advantage to beat Cal 4-1 in their first matchup.
The two teams didn’t meet again until the final match of the 2015 season in which Stanford took the win again, but with a bit more effort. An already more advanced Cal team was able to push the score to 2-3, showing that the team’s developing skills were already proving effective.
Then, in 2016 on Cardinal turf, Cal finally took its victory, 3-2. This was just the first taste of the back-and-forth contention that has defined the competitive relationship ever since.
The 2017 season saw an overall increase in the intensity of the Bears’ schedule, which included two scheduled matchups with Stanford instead of one. The Bears took the first 3-2, but the Cardinal turned the tides on them with their own 3-2 victory one month later.
Last season saw a flipped repetition of that trend, starting with a 3-2 Stanford victory and ending with a 3-2 Cal victory — both matches saw the deciding sets determined by just a single point. With three meetings scheduled between the teams this season alone, the stakes are high, as each will try to prove its dominance with majority wins. This Saturday at Stanford will be Cal’s first chance to take the lead.
Currently, Cal’s record is 5-1, while No. 13 Stanford can only show a record of 2-5. This may seem to suggest an advantage for Cal, but it is important to consider the caliber of each team’s opponents so far.
All five of Stanford’s losses came against ranked teams, while Cal has only played one ranked team in No. 1 UCLA. While this might not look good on paper for the Cardinal, it also means they have plenty of experience playing against some of the best teams in the nation.
The Bears, on the other hand, have faced admittedly easy competition for the most part. This has the potential to leave them unprepared for the hardened determination of an already weathered team. The Bears will have to be ready to adapt and stay consistent because Stanford will be the best team they have faced so far other than UCLA.
Before the highly anticipated rival matchup, Cal will first have to take care of UC Davis. This is the Aggie beach volleyball team’s very first season of play. UC Davis has played just two matches so far — both wins against Sacramento State — leaving the team likely unprepared for its matches against both Stanford and Cal. If the Aggies go home with a win this weekend, suffice to say it will have been a huge upset.
Cal will be going into tomorrow’s tournament after a midweek game yesterday against Utah. The first round of matches saw the Bears’ No. 4 team easily defeat its Utes counterpart, while the No. 3 team took a bit more time, winning in extra points to take the second set.
The second round saw the No. 2 team again easily defeat its opponents, while the No. 1 team — freshman Jordan Polo and sophomore Mima Mirkovic — suffered an upset. After taking the first set 21-17, the two let go of the second and then barely lost the third, 13-15. Overall, it was a 4-1 win for Cal, but Polo and Mirkovic will need to recover from yesterday’s defeat in time to come out strong against the Bears’ ultimate rival.
Alison White covers beach volleyball. Contact her at