The sand volleyball match between Cal and Stanford doesn’t have a clever nickname yet. The indoor volleyball game is called “The Big Spike,” so does that make the sand volleyball version “The Big Spike on Sand?”
“Maybe the Big Sand? I don’t know,” said Cal’s Adrienne Gehan, laughing.
Whatever it’s called, Cal will play Stanford on Friday in the newest dimension to the historic rivalry between these two Bay Area schools. Though the Cardinal (0-6) have yet to win a match, they have faced some of the toughest competition that the young sport has to offer, including No. 3 Hawaii, No. 6 UCLA, and No. 5 Long Beach State. Cal (1-2), by contrast, has yet to face a ranked opponent this season.
The match will begin at 3:30 p.m. with the top two courts playing first — the reverse order of most other matches. The Bears requested the change so that a number of Cal players would have time to proctor a midterm at the Stanford campus after their matches. Following the top two courts, the No. 3 court will play before the No. 4 and No. 5 courts conclude the match.
And of course, the winner will go home with a valuable 1-0 lead in a brand new addition to an old rivalry.
“There’s always a fun rivalry with Stanford,” said Adrienne Gehan. “Especially with the volleyball team — there is always a respective rivalry and I really like playing those girls because they’re some of the best players in the country and vice versa.”
Stanford is in its second season playing sand volleyball after the team concluded a 7-1 campaign last season. Like the Cal team, the Cardinal squad is currently composed of many of the same players from its indoor volleyball team. Indoor stars Brittany Howard and Carly Wopat often take up the team’s top court, much like Cal’s senior duo of Gehan and Joan Caloiaro has made up the Bears’ top court so far this season.
That can add a bit of familiarity with the faces across the net, but the sport is different enough that Cal doesn’t really know what kind of challenge to expect.
“Everyone is in such a different place now so I don’t really know,” Gehan said. “You have somewhat of an idea, but the beach is just so different that you really have no clue what is going to happen.”
Following the match against Stanford, the Bears will hop on a bus travelling the opposite direction — to Sacramento — for a doubleheader on Saturday. Cal will face Sacramento State (0-1) at noon before battling No. 10 Saint Mary’s (3-0) at 3 p.m.
This will be the first time that Cal has faced more than one opponent in a weekend, let alone on a single day. In just two days, the Bears will play the same number of matches that the team has competed in in the last four weeks. Yet the players aren’t worried about fatigue because each court plays for under an hour at a time, a marked contrast to indoor matches which can last for hours.
But the sand game still tests the players in a way that they aren’t used to, stressing cardio as the players have to cover the entire court.
“It will just be a different kind of tired than we are used to,” Gehan said. “We’re used to our legs hurting, our back being sore, that kind of stuff. Now we’ll just be drained from the exercise part of it.”