For the first time since 2009, the Cal volleyball team will enter the Big Spike against rival Stanford as the clearly less talented squad. The match between the Bears and the Cardinal will take place on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. at Maples Pavilion in Stanford.
Cal (6-4) will be opening its conference schedule one the road, where it has a losing record. Riding a six-game winning streak, No. 7 Stanford (8-2) comes in with more momentum than Cal.
In its last non-conference game against USF, Cal suffered a surprising 3-0 loss that snapped its previous four-game winning streak. Against the Dons, Cal could not get any sort of consistency or rhythm in their play: most natably, the team had difficulty transforming sets into kills.
Sometimes they could serve but not dig, and other times they could set but not kill. Now against a top-10 team, Cal will have to tighten up every aspect of its game. To beat a team like this one, Cal will have to cut down on its errors and
“This is the type of match that is not too hard to get excited for,” head coach Rich Feller said. “Everyone on the team has a job, and we are going to try and go out there and have each player do their job.”
This task does not seem so difficult, but the Bears have been hurt by players that missed huge chunks of time this season and are still nursing their injuries back to full strength.
The biggest piece of the team struggling with injuries is senior opposite Correy Johnson. She returned this past weekend against Santa Clara for her season debut, but she is still not at 100 percent strength. She recorded only eight kills and three blocks against the Dons.
“I still have not been able to get back to the form I was in before,” Johnson said. “A lot of times, I have to try and make changes or communicate with (setter Joan Caloiaro) in games instead of during practice which makes it hard.”
As the Bears limp into Wednesday, Stanford roars. The Cardinal has one of the most stacked offensive fronts in the nation including junior Carly Wopat and freshman Jordan Burgess. Wopat’s last match included 14 kills, eight blocks, and two service aces. In order to stop this attack, Cal’s strategy in the match will be to try and return all of the hard shots Stanford sends it’s way and to turn them into long rallies.
“We figure that they will come out and bring a lot of balls at us,” Feller said. “So in practice we have to try and simulate long rallies and really hard attacks as best we can.”
Those long rallies will not have a chance to develop if the Cal defense performs as it did against USF.
The key for the Bears this weekend will be keeping the ball in play as much as possible. If they can do that, many of those rallies could end in kills for the Bears.
“Going in, we know that we have to play better in all aspects of the game if we want to beat them,” Johnson said. “So our whole focus will be on our side of the net, to make sure we are more consistent and improve our mentality to go out there and be more aggressive.”
Karan Karia covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]