Sand volleyball has so many major as well as subtle differences from indoor volleyball that despite being halfway through the season, the Bears still have no idea what to expect from their opponents.
The Cal sand volleyball team will host a tri-meet Saturday at the Clark Kerr Sand Courts. The Bears (2-4) will take on Sac State (0-6) and Cal Poly (1-4) at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.
Cal is looking to make up for last weekend, when they lost to Stanford on Friday and split matches at the Sac State Invitational. The Bears defeated the Hornets, 3-2, but dropped their second match in a 5-0 loss to Saint Mary’s.
The Bears certainly do not have a lack of talent on their debut squad, with the team composed mostly of Cal’s indoor volleyball team who made a run, albeit a short one, in the NCAA tournament last year. The Bears’ lineup includes All-Americans and All-Pac-12 players, but as the season hits the halfway mark, Cal’s inexperience in sand volleyball is steadily showing.
“(Sand volleyball is) a lot more about what you do on your side of the net,” said Cal head coach Rich Feller. “You can control your serve and eliminate unforced errors, and if you do those two things you have a pretty good team of being even with the team. And the team with the little more quickness and better ball control ends up as winners.”
The Bears’ pairings remain relatively the same — seniors Adrienne Gehan and Joan Caloiaro remain Cal’s No. 1 team. Both girls played pivotal roles for Cal’s offense on last season’s indoor team, with Gehan joining the 1,000 career-kills club.
The No. 2 pair of Sarah Cole and Lara Vukasovic is the Bears’ most successful pair so far, dropping its first match of the season last weekend. The No. 3 court consists of sophomore Katarina Milosavljevic and freshman Sabrina Blackwell, both of whom were not regular faces during the indoor season.
The duo of freshman Maddy Kerr and sophomore Nikki Gombar is expected to take up court No. 4. The pair was the only Cal duo able to provide a win against Stanford last weekend. Rounding out Cal’s pairings as the Bears’ No. 5 team are freshman Emily Lunt and Caroline Olsen, the only players on the roster who don’t play for Cal’s indoor squad.
This weekend, while the Bears have an inkling of what to see from Sac State having just defeated them last weekend, they will not be familiar with Cal Poly. Cal Poly, just as Cal and many other schools that added sand volleyball on its schedules this year, is made up of its indoor team for its debut seasons. Most teams the Bears have faced are also in their inaugural season, and there’s really no way to prepare for a match against a specific team.
“With the NorCal teams, they’re all very similar to us in that they’re using mostly their indoor players, so they’ve got what they’ve got,” Feller said. “We have lots of specialists — defensive and offensive — so when you play against a team more well rounded with versatile players, they have a better time adapting to the sand.”
Alicia Fong covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected]