Cal beach volleyball has hit a crossroads in its season. The team had an undefeated 8-0 start to the season but has since dropped six of its past eight matches. After falling to San Jose State 3-2 on Saturday afternoon, the team now embarks on the final stretch of its season with the desire for redemption.
With the end now in sight, the Bears can go two ways. They can potentially come full circle and finish the season the way they started it — with a major winning streak. Or, they can finish on their current dip if they cannot pull deep for some victories.
“We had this amazing win streak at the beginning of the season, but many of those matches were 3-2 wins, and now we have had a couple 3-2 losses,” said junior captain Teya Neff. “And the difference between that is just a few points sometimes.”
That is precisely what happened Friday, as the match came down to wire. On court one, junior Jessica Gaffney and sophomore Mia Merino saved a match point in the second set to force a third.
In that final set there was a strange scoring mishap. The argument arose on whether the score was 13-11 or 14-10 in favor of the Gaels. That argument did not come until the a few points after the fact, as the Cal coaches and players did not catch the discrepancy until it was too late.
Cal head coach Meagan Schmitt was convinced the score was 13-11 and even displayed a personal tally in her notes to try to prove it, but the two officials on the court were more trusting of the 14-10 score that the scorecards showed. The Gaels clinched the deciding point they needed immediately afterward.
Discussion between Schmitt and the officials continued off the court after the match, as well. Schmitt was clearly not happy and the officials looked a bit confused themselves, which only made matters worse.
The Bears had a lengthy team huddle at the end of the match and, despite the loss, encouraged each other to move on and focus on Tuesday’s match against the Cardinal.
“It is important that we not dwell on these losses, but that we accept them and learn from them,” said junior captain Bryce Bark.
As the team prepares for the midweek trip to Palo Alto, all sights are set on what is left ahead. Cal will look back to the dual against the Cardinal it won at the beginning of this season to use as a template for future success.
That time around, it was the freshmen who stepped up for the Bears in the 3-2 victory. But now at more pivotal point of the season, Cal will need the experience of its older players to rally the underclassmen and keep them calm for a crucial rivalry match.
“This upcoming Tuesday is a huge match against Stanford,” Bark said. “We hate to lose but we want to take that and transfer it over to going all out at every practice and focus on the next important thing”.
Charlie Griffen covers beach volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]