The last time the Cal volleyball team was not in the top 25 rankings, all the current players were still in their preteen years. The Bears hit their lowest point in 10 years, dropping out of the rankings for the first time since the end of the 2002 season.
In the tournament in Honolulu, Hawaii, Cal (2-3) dropped two of three matches to unranked teams , providing the catalyst that knocked it out of the top 25. But in their last match, the Bears pulled an upset victory against No. 6 Hawaii, helping them stay in the hunt and showed the potential this team carries.
“For the new players, they got to see that, ‘oh, we can do it,’ match” head coach Rich Feller said. “We are going to try and work off that and put our 100 percent forward and try to win the tournament.”
This weekend, Cal will try and rebound from recent disappointing resultsin its first home matches against Northern Arizona, UC Riverside and Pennsylvania in the Molten Classic.
The Bears were ranked No. 1 for about a month last season, and as a result, the expectations from then still carry on to this season. Although the record so far has been a disappointment, Feller has tried to focus his concentration more on the level of play rather than the results.
“I think the main reason we didn’t win was because we weren’t playing together,” Feller said. “We had a few key players out, and that hurt us, so I’m not too worried right now.”
These injuries, primarily to senior Correy Johnson, who missed a few months with a foot injury, have hindered the Bears’ progress so far. With Johnson slowly recovering from her leg injury, the Bears will be able to play a nearly completely healthy lineup for the first time this season.
None of these teams the Bears play are ranked, but the Bears’ problems have not been their opponents. Feller has been forced to go to his bench so far this season, and the team has been playing without any sort of harmony.
“In our losses so far, we weren’t playing to our expectations and looking for someone else to step up,” sophomore outside hitter Christina Higgins said. “So we really want to figure out what works and play to our full potential in every game.”
All of the teams coming to this tournament have better records than Cal, especially Northern Arizona which is entering this weekend with a perfect 6-0 record. Despite their opponents’ success, the Bears believe they have what it takes to come out on top.
“A successful tournament for us will be to win all of our matches,” Higgins said.
This weekend will be a perfect opportunity for Cal to get back on track and build off of the momentum it has gained after a big victory against Hawaii. But for now, the coaches and players are not very worried, as long as the Bears can keep rolling.
And if Cal can indeed start rolling this weekend, perhaps it will vault back to its top 25 domain.
Karan Karia covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]