No. 11 Cal beach volleyball takes first rivalry game of season

Volleyball player spikes the ball over the net.
Karen Chow /Senior Staff

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Not only can the No. 11 Cal beach volleyball team flaunt an impressive 7-1 record so far this season, but after last Saturday’s tournament, they can also claim victory over No. 13 Stanford.

Before they could enter the challenge against Stanford on Cardinal turf across the bay, Cal first had to go through UC Davis. Those matches ended up being a good warmup for the Bears as they won 5-0 without dropping a set.

The average number of points scored by a Davis team was only 10.8, with the No. 5 pair of sophomores Ally Reyes and Alexa Rockas dropping both of their sets 21-6.

The Aggies’ performance at the tournament was to be expected. This season is only the first for the brand-new program, and their match against Cal was only their fourth ever, coming directly after an early morning 5-0 loss to Stanford.

It wasn’t until the afternoon, after both the Cardinals and the Bears had already gotten their feet sandy against the Aggies, that they finally came face-to-face across the net.

As soon as the first whistle was blown between the blue and red, it was a back-and-forth battle, the ending of which no one could predict with certainty.

The first two matches of the day were between the No. 1 and No. 2 pairs. Cal’s first duo of sophomore Mima Mirkovic and freshman Jordan Polo defeated their counterparts in three sets, taking the first 21-10, dropping the second in a close 19-21 and then solidifying Cal’s first step toward victory with a 15-10 win in the third.

Across the sand, their teammates — sophomore Caroline Schaefer and junior Iya Lindahl — fell to Stanford freshmen Tori Ashkinos and Charlie Ekstrom. The match was lost in three sets with Schaefer and Lindahl coming back in the second but losing the third 15-12.

Cal suffered another loss when senior Grace Campbell and sophomore Maddie Micheletti dropped their match in two sets to junior Morgan Hentz and sophomore Amelia Smith in red. They managed to push the second into extra points but couldn’t quite overcome their opponents, losing it 25-23.

Cal’s No. 5 team of senior Mia Merino and junior Abby Waldburger tied the match score at 2-2 with their defeat of junior Shannon Richardson and sophomore Blake Sharp in a decisive two sets, 21-11 and 21-15.

This left just one match to determine which of the two rivals would go home victorious. It was the No. 4 flight with sophomore Alexia Inman and junior Madison Dueck playing for Cal across the court from two more Stanford freshmen, Maddie Dailey and Jordan McKinney.

Though some might discount a freshmen duo so early in the season, Stanford’s No. 2 pair had already proved effective earlier in the day. These new faces are nothing to doubt.

Inman and Dueck took the first set 21-15, but Dailey and McKinney came back strong, giving the Bears a taste of their own medicine with their own 21-15 win.

Such even sets left the crowd on their toes. No one could know who would come out on top in the third after all the back-and-forth competition to that point.

In the end, Inman and Dueck were able to recover the fire from their initial win and left no question as to the overall victor of the day. They took the third set 15-6.

While this win is a big one for Cal, Stanford still has at least two more opportunities this season to make a comeback. The next scheduled rival matchup will take place April 7, once again on Stanford territory.

With such strong freshmen already making red waves on their courts, the Cardinal team has plenty of potential for growth in the coming weeks, and the Bears need to be prepared for their biggest opponent to come back even stronger in the future.

Alison White covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].