No. 14 Cal beach volleyball faces St. Mary’s, SJSU with perfect record still intact

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No. 14 Cal beach volleyball is getting another shot at extending the best start in team history in front of its home crowd Friday, with matches against St. Mary’s and San Jose State. In the tri-meet format, Cal will play both teams in the afternoon, after the Spartans and the Gaels have already faced each other to begin the meet in a morning match.

Cal’s undefeated record this season can be attributed to the dependable bottom half of its lineup, which has gotten the team off to early leads in all its matches. It seems strange to credit Cal’s lower pairs rather than its starts, but the stats are present to back it up. Cal’s No. 4 and No. 5 pairs continue to hold perfect 7-0 records this season.

Both SJSU’s and St. Mary’s rosters are composed of players that play for both the indoor and beach teams. Cal and its primarily beach-only players have had great success against teams made up of taller players who were converted from indoor play.

The Bears’ first match of the day will come against the Spartans. Last season, Cal lost both of its matches to San Jose State, 3-2, with one coming at a neutral site and the other at home. Prior to those matches, the Spartans were winless against the Bears, but with the impressive performances they strung together last season, they improved their overall record against the Bears to 2-4.

One of the few bright spots for the Bears during last year’s second matchup was a win by then-freshmen Grace Campbell and Olivia Rodberg, who rallied for a big three-set win, the final score coming in at 18-21, 21-16, 15-8.

Having played St. Mary’s on the opening weekend of the season and earned a big win, the Bears will be looking for similar results. It was a 3-2 match, so the Bears will look for better results, but a win nonetheless, in Berkeley.

After falling to Gael pairs less than three weeks ago, Cal’s No. 1 and No. 3 pairs will look to flip the script. Junior Jessica Gaffney and freshman Camille Stepanof lost their match on the 3s court that day in three tight sets, 21-17, 21-23, 15-8. But since that match, the duo has begun to click on the sand and is currently on a three-match winning streak.

This meet will end the Bears’ homestand before they embark on a busy spring break on the road in Southern California. Friday’s matches will start a six-day stretch where they will play seven matches. These matchups will also be Cal’s final preparations before taking on ranked conference opponents during that span. The performance of the top pairs will be important, as they will need to reach the standard set by the lower pairs if Cal wishes to have continued success against the better opponents on the slate.

Charlie Griffen covers beach volleyball. Contact him at [email protected].