Cal faces three opponents in weekend test in Honolulu

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Despite being in Hawaii for the long weekend, the Cal volleyball team will not be there to vacation as the Bears take on three teams in three days.

The No. 17 Bears heads to Hawaii this weekend to play in the Wahine Volleyball Classic at Stan Sheriff Center. Cal will face Baylor on Friday night, followed by the the University of San Francisco on Saturday and then No. 6 Hawaii to close out the weekend.

“We’re anxious to be here,” middle hitter Shannon Hawari said. “But we know it’s about business.”

Cal is coming off a mixed last weekend in their opening matches. They swept Delaware 3-0 with some impressive performances from freshmen Lara Vusakovic and Mary McKennon. Injuries to key players in Robin Rostratter and Correy Johnson posed an issue for the squad, but coach Rich Feller helped the newcomers in trainings this past week to feel more comfortable being in the forefront.

“I have to be happy with a lot of things,” Feller said. “I feel we battled pretty well, on the road with three freshman in the starting lineup.”

Feller also spent time in practices to further develop a balance between the rookies and the upperclassmen. Junior outside hitter Adrienne Gehan has made her contributions as she leads the Pac-12 with 4.88 kills per set. Likewise, senior Hawari is tied for fifth with 1.50 blocks per set. Both Texas natives will be important in breaking down against Baylor. Newly transferred setter Joan Caloiaro, who comes from USF, will also likely get the opportunity to play against her old team.

The competition won’t make it easy for them in Honolulu.

Baylor has featured a more youthful lineup for the start of the season, showcased when freshman Laura Jones was named the tournament MVP of the North Baylor Classic last weekend. Jones led the attack with 16 kills in Baylor’s match against Nevada, averaging 3.3 kills per set and helping her squad to all three wins in its opener.

As the other California team in this weekend’s competition, the Dons are still in the early phases of team development. Sophomore Valentina Zaloznik and senior Jocelyn Levig will be the two players to look out for. Both won all-tournament honors in their past matches at the UniWyo Invitational in Wyoming after posting 34 and 49 kills, respectively.

“We got wins but we need to be better prepared in Hawaii and the rest of the season,” Dons coach Gilad Doron said in a post-game interview after the Invitational .

The Bears’ real test will come against Hawaii. As their only ranked opponent, the Wahines will have the advantage of being on home court and boast a more experienced squad this season. Junior outside hitter Emily Hartong was awarded the Big West Player of the Week and Most Outstanding Player honors in the Rainbow Wahine Invitational for helping her team to three victories – most notably against then-No. 6 Stanford in the title match.

The standards are high for a team that was a NCAA championship finalist and usually in the top three of their conference. With Cal’s toughest battle on the last day in paradise, the Bears will look to finish strong and head back with confidence as they play in Haas Pavilion for the first time next week.