For a Cal volleyball team that continues to sputter through a 9-15 season and has now lost five of its past six matches, the long-term future — one that includes a strong summer of work, new recruits and fresh blood entering the program — can’t come soon enough. This year has been a disappointment, and the sooner the team can move on, the better.
But, its very immediate future — one that includes hosting the combined 35-14 USC and UCLA teams Friday and Sunday, two of the best programs in not only the conference, but the entire country — feels all too soon.
The Bears lost to both the Trojans and Bruins during their late-October road trip and not in their occasional fight-really-hard-and-just-barely-lose kind of way. No, Cal took 0-3 and 1-3 drubbings in Los Angeles, and in the team’s recent tailspin, it hasn’t corrected many of the ills that plagued it down south. UCLA, on the other hand, beat the Bears while in the middle of a six-game win streak that lofted it into a three-way tie at the top of the Pac-12. USC has fared well too, sitting comfortably in a tie for second.
Cal will play host to some of the best individual offensive and defensive players in all the conference this weekend, as No. 13 UCLA and USC both boast players who dominate in digs and hitting percentage.
While the Trojans feature senior Taylor Whittingham, whose 4.93 digs per set are third-best in the Pac-12, the Bruins have their very own defensive stud in senior Taylor Formico, who is first in the conference with 5.11 per set.
UCLA has the No. 3 and No. 6 most efficient killers in the conference in Jennie Frager and Claire Felix, who register .368 and .345 lines, respectively. But, USC has No. 1 — senior Elise Ruddins, whose scorching hot .423 is a whole 39 decimal points higher than second place.
So while it’s easy to find despair in the remaining death march of the Bears, there are genuine areas to grow for the future. The growing freshmen and the soon-to-be-gone seniors may come together in these last few matches to prove that while the postseason is out of the question, personal pride isn’t. But that’s all they’ve got to fight for anymore.
“The season’s not over yet,” Feller said.
Perhaps, in the most literal interpretation of the word.