After starting the first two weeks of its season with away tournaments on the weekend, the Cal beach volleyball team came out to its first home dual comfortable and relaxed. As the flow of fans made their around the Clark Kerr Sand Volleyball courts, the Bears did not look distracted.
Their ease allowed the No. 14 Bears to take care of business, beating Sacramento State 4-1 to move Cal’s undefeated record to 7-0.
“We prepped for our first home match knowing that it could really be used to our advantage, but it can also be a distraction,” said Cal head coach Meagan Schmitt. “We reviewed our home game rules and expectations and having our entire squad of 19 girls (at the match) really added to the overall atmosphere in addition to our home fans.”
Action started at noon with the No. 5 pair of freshman Bridget Gustafson and junior Teya Neff dismantling its Hornet opponents 21-15, 21-11 — while the all-freshman duo of Nicole Anderson and Iya Lindahl simultaneously made easy work on the other court, winning both of its sets with a score of 21-12.
Junior Jessica Gaffney and freshman Camille Stepanof continued Cal’s steady play and took down the Hornet pair of freshman Sarah Davis and junior Kennedy Kurtz. Cal cruised to win the first set 21-13. In the second, Gaffney came up with a huge spike in what was a close set to give Cal a 16-14 lead, and Stepanof then went a 4-0 serving streak to close out the set 21-15. With that victory, Gaffney and Stepanof improved to 7-0 on the season.
After the No. 3 pairs finished, it was official: The Bears had already clinched the match. The results of the last two pairs would not matter for the overall result, but that did not deter the Bears’ faithful fans from staying. In fact, the crowd grew in numbers when the time came for the final matches of the day.
Sophomores Grace Campbell and Olivia Rodberg looked sharp at the No. 2 pair, as the duo clearly had quite the fan base perched up behind Court 2 supporting them. After some shaky matches the past couple weekends, Campbell and Rodberg got off to a fast start against Sac State seniors Courtney Dietrich and Lexie Skalbeck. Looking like the player she is, Campbell clinched the first set 21-8 on a sneaky second ball that dropped short and untouched on the Hornet’s side of the net. The Bear duo then wrapped up the second set 21-12.
Finally, the Hornets No. 1 pair was able to tally Sac State’s lone point of the match by beating the Cal duo of sophomore Mia Merino and junior Bryce Bark in a tight 22-20, 21-19 match.
Despite ending on a slightly sour note, the Bears were greeted by excited family, friends and fans in celebration of the best start in program history.
“Any win is a great win, so we are very excited to improve our record to 7-0 but still have a lot of things to work on,” Schmitt said. “Specifically, implementing game plans early and then executing them.”
Schmitt will have the opportunity to work those improvements with her team, as the Bears finish off a short home-stand with a double header against San Jose State and St. Mary’s on Friday.
Charlie Griffen covers beach volleyball. Contact him at