While Cal students jetted off for their sunny spring break trips, the Cal beach volleyball team had a tough spring break, falling to three ranked opponents this week in Southern California. The road trip was bound to have its challenges, as Cal was facing three top-6 teams.
In a tri-meet at Long Beach State on Monday, Cal took on Long Beach State and UCLA. Cal was winless against Long Beach last season and did not face the Bruins but remained optimistic of a potential upset.
Ultimately, the Bears were swept by the No. 6 Long Beach, but bright spots for Cal were junior Teya Neff and freshman Bridget Gustafson. The No. 5 duo pushed the 49ers to three sets, ultimately falling 17-15 in the decider.
Despite falling 4-1 against the No. 3 Bruins, the Bears played a better match.
No. 4 pair of freshmen Nicole Anderson and Iya Lindahl scored the Bears’ only point across all three duals. In the match against the Bruins, Anderson and Lindahl beat UCLA’s senior Jordan Anderson and sophomore Izzy Carey in straight sets, 21-15, 21-18.
Cal head coach Meagan Schmitt, for the most part, kept with the pairings first unveiled at last Friday’s tri-meet for all three matches. The only slight change was that sophomores Grace Campbell and Olivia Rodberg moved back to No. 2, while the new pair of junior Bryce Bark and freshman Camille Stepanof got bumped down to No. 3.
The Trojans easily handled the Bears and erased any chance of a massive upset with an easy 5-0 victory.
Hard serving and overall power play pushed the Trojans past the Bears without even dropping a set. Plain and simple, the Bears were overpowered. The Trojan players have the rare qualities of size and speed around the court.
They were also much more active on the net and on the block. Cal came in with a clear strategy to be the more steady team and use craftier cut shots to catch the Trojans off guard. The high-risk strategy, however, came with many errors for the Bears.
To finish off their busy road trip, the Bears then traveled to Northridge to take on Loyola Marymount and host CSUN. The Bears entered into both matches as the favorites and lived up to the expectations.
The Bears were able to cap the week with two 3-2 victories to move their overall record to 10-4. Gustafson and Neff did not drop a set against either squad and their two victories at the No. 5, proving to be crucial and getting Cal off to early leads.
After playing the role of the underdog, Cal bounced back and did not let its struggles against some of the nation’s best teams affect its play Thursday. Although they were not able to pull off an upset as they would have hoped, the Bears showed grit and have consistently improved their performance against the likes of USC and UCLA. Potentially, another shot at those powerhouse programs awaits at the Pac-12 championships at the end of April, but for now the Bears will use the lessons learned from such defeats to finish out the rest of the season.
Charlie Griffen covers beach volleyball. Contact his at [email protected]