Cal sand volleyball finishes inaugural season with back-to-back wins

Patrick Chong/File

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With such a short season, both players and coach alike wish for more time­­ — more time for improvements, more time for their seniors and more time outside.

The Cal sand volleyball team ended its inaugural season this weekend by winning two of the three matches and sending off its seniors on a high note. The Bears (5-6) fell just short of knocking off Santa Clara on Friday, losing 3-2, but more than made up for it when they traveled to Sacramento and beatboth San Jose State and Sac State.

Seniors Adrienne Gehan and Joan Caloiaro managed to finish their collegiate careers with three straight wins, being one of the two pairs who won their game against Santa Clara. The win also served as a send-off for the seniors as their final game in Berkeley as a Bear.

“It’s not often that anyone can finish their careers with three straight wins in any sport,” said Cal head coach Rich Feller. “I thought that was a fitting way to finish (Gehan’s and Caloiaro’s) great careers here, both indoor and outdoor. It was gratifying to see.”

Sophomore Nikki Gombar and freshman Maddy Kerr were the other pair that snatched a win against Santa Clara. The duo was down by five points in the second game, 20-15, and managed to not only hold the other team from scoring but also come back to win, 23-21, taking the second game and match.

Shaking off the loss against Santa Clara, the Bears traveled to Sac State and buried both San Jose State and the Hornets, winning 5-0 and 4-1, respectively. Cal’s No. 2 team of sophomores Lara Vukasovic and Sarah Cole didn’t drop a set all day, despite the Hornets’ Madeline Cannon and Sloan Lovett’s relentless efforts, pushing the set until the Bears eventually won, 28-26. The second set remained close as well, but Vukasovic and Cole were able to bring it home, 21-19.

Gombar and Kerr also swept the competition, winning their sets easily and finishing the season having won seven of their final eight matches.

“We are essentially entering just our fifth week of the season right now — of sand,” Feller said. “So if you put that in the same context (of indoor), we’re just getting into what would be the meat of the season, and we’ve just showed tremendous improvement. So I’m looking at that as a real positive that, maybe if we had a longer sand season, which we will in future years, we would just be hitting our stride right now.”

With most of the team also playing on the indoor team, the players will go straight from the sand to the gym. The differences between sand and indoor volleyball meant most of the season was spent as a transition period and with the team preparing for its trip to Europe, the Bears will need at least a week to get back into indoor mode. But according to Feller, this inaugural sand volleyball season is a sign of great things to come.

“I think this is a real sport that is going to take off,” said Feller. “It’s just going to get bigger and bigger as every Pac-12 team sponsors a team, and its just going to be a big-time sport here. Saturday was a good indication of where we can take this program.”

Alicia Fong covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected]

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