One way or another, the tide will have turned after this weekend.
With Cal volleyball at exactly .500 in conference play, these next two games are critical in terms of moving up in the rankings in the Pac-12. Two other teams have the same record as the Bears, and a few others have similar ones, resulting in a rat race in the middle of the Pac-12. As Cal prepares to take on No. 20 Oregon (12-6, 5-3 Pac-12) on Friday at 6 p.m. in Haas Pavilion, in a race this close, any win or loss will move the Bears from their current position.
To be successful against Oregon, the Bears have to focus on their transitioning — specifically from offense to defense. The Ducks run a fast offense that opens them up for a variety of options in terms of attacking. Cal’s blocking game needs to be spot-on for the Bears to have a chance to slow down Oregon’s attacks.
“(Their offense is) kind of like a football wishbone where you don’t know who’s going to get the ball because they’ve got a lot of different motion,” said Cal coach Rich Feller. “We have to be able to track that and be aware of who the hitters are and what routes they might be taking.”
Serving tough will be an emphasis against the Ducks’ fast-paced offense. The tougher the serve, the more predictable Oregon’s returns will be, allowing the Bears to set up their defense accordingly.
“Oregon’s sets are fast; they have 10 different options for every rotation,” said senior outside hitter Adrienne Gehan. “If we can get both of these wins, then it’ll kind of shift everything around again and put us higher.”
Gehan will take the lead for the Bears on the offensive end as she comes closer to reaching a career milestone — her 1,000th kill. She enters the week with 978 kills, ranked third in the Pac-12. With 4.39 kills per set, Gehan is certainly capable of reaching 1,000, which would make her only the 15th Cal player to ever reach the 1,000 mark for a career.
But while this is a great personal milestone for Gehan, she is focused on the overall outcome of the game, especially after falling a bit from her usual standards last weekend.
“My mom texted me (about the 1,000 kills), and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool! That’s fun,’ ” Gehan said. “I definitely didn’t play to my potential (last weekend), which is frustrating. I’m really hoping to turn it around.”
As the second half of the Pac-12 season approaches, it is imperative for the Bears to come out with wins this weekend. With Cal being stuck in the middle of the rankings, any win or loss will bump the team from their current position.
“We haven’t really nearly reached our potential yet,” Feller said. “I’m somewhat happy with where we’re at because we’re at a good position to make a late run, but we’ve got to be more consistent, and we’re still trying to learn new things as we go.”
Alicia Fong covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]