Another weekend at the Stanford Sand Volleyball Stadium, another sweep by the Cal beach volleyball team. The Bears remain undefeated to start the season (6-0), after first beating Utah on Saturday morning by a set score of 4-1 and then No. 16 Stanford later that afternoon, 3-2. And as the cherry on top, Cal re-entered the AVCA poll this week at the No. 14 spot.
Cal used its young, athletic and agile beach-only players to its advantage, out-maneuvering the much bigger indoor players that play on the beach teams for the Utes and the Cardinal.
The Bears took on a Utes program that was playing in its first-ever match. Cal’s No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 pairs clinched the match, relieving the pressure for the top two pairs in their later matches.
Freshman Camille Stepanof and junior transfer Jessica Gaffney set the tone for this dual, with an impressive win against the Utes’ No. 3 pair of junior Carly Trueman and freshman Brianna Doehrmann, dispatching them in two quick sets, 21-7, 21-15. Both fresh additions to this year’s squad, Stepanof and Gaffney are key members of the group of exceptional newcomers for the Bears.
Cal’s No. 1 pair of junior Bryce Bark and sophomore Mia Merino went into their match already knowing that their team had won, no matter their result. But this didn’t lead to any loss of focus. 5-foot-7 Merino proved to be too good against opponents juniors Adora Anae and Eliza Katoa, who have a six- and three-inch height advantage, respectively, over Merino.
Then came the anticipated match against Stanford, coming on the heels of a dramatic finish last season that went in the Bear’s favor. Cal beach volleyball continued its winning ways against the rival Cardinal, again receiving its biggest performances from players that were not a part of the down-to-the-wire match last year.
Ultimately, Cal got another 3-2 victory against the Cardinal, but the match was not as close as the scoreline would suggest.
Stepanof and Gaffney sealed the win after they beat Stanford’s pair of junior Catherine Raquel and freshman Shannon Richardson, 21-19, 21-13. The Cardinal then got their two points of the dual from their top two pairs, but knowing the result of those matches would not change the greater outcome of the dual.
Cal’s No. 4 and No. 5 remain undefeated on the season. Freshmen Iya Lindahl and Nicole Anderson put together two key wins against the Utes and the Cardinal. They join the No. 5 pair of junior captain Teya Neff and freshman Bridget Gustafson among the ranks of undefeated pairs. Neff and Gustafson have also compiled a 12-0 set record against their opponents this season. Yes, they have even yet to drop a set.
The Bears did not let the bigger players from the Utes and the Cardinal deter them from executing their game plan and leaving Stanford with two victories on the season. The Bears keep rolling on with their undefeated ways as they look toward their home opener of the season coming up Saturday.
Charlie Griffen covers beach volleyball. Contact him at