Cal beach volleyball prepares to face Washington, Boise State, Oregon

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Which version of the Cal beach volleyball team will show up this weekend? It’s great question with no simple answer. On trend with the unpredictability of the season so far, playing on the Clark Kerr Sand Volleyball Courts has not been a guaranteed victory for the Bears.

Cal (10-7) will have its last home match of the season versus Washington (2-4). With a 2-2 home record, Friday’s match against the Huskies will determine whether a home-court advantage can be sustained on the season.

Washington has played far fewer matches than the Bears have this season, which may make it less prepared. But having a 4-1 victory from last season gives Washington a game plan to follow.

Cal will then travel from Berkeley to Palo Alto on Friday evening for matches against Boise State (4-2) and Oregon (1-3) on Saturday. After Tuesday’s loss against the Cardinal, perhaps playing on Stanford’s courts will light a fire under the team.

The Bears have a 1-1 all-time record against the Broncos. The last meeting was a 4-1 victory for the Bears, but larger trends have been better predictors this season than more recent performances against opponents have been.

Cal made easy work of Oregon last season. It swept the Ducks in both meetings by scores of 5-0 and surely will look for similar results. But the Bears have found themselves in several close matches this season, and they have yet to record a 5-0 victory over any team they have faced.

For many of the best teams in the country, the No. 1 pair proves to be a sure point almost every time out. That is the territory and expectation that comes with being the top duo. A look at some of the team’s top pair winning records will tell you a lot about its success as a whole.

No. 1 pair of sophomore Mia Merino and junior Jessica Gaffney needs to step up for the Bears this weekend. The No. 1 team should be a steady and confident source of a point for the team, but with a 1-9 record since pairing up together March 24 against St. Mary’s, Gaffney and Merino have simply let their team down.

That being said, junior captain Bryce Bark and freshman Camille Stepanof have performed no better while playing back and forth at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions. Their 1-9 record has not helped the Bears of late, either.

For Cal, the bottom half of its lineup will determine the result. The Bears’ No. 4 and No. 5 pairs are the teams that have reliably scored points when needed most. Freshmen Iya Lindahl and Nicole Anderson are tied for the best record on the squad with junior team captain Teya Neff and freshman Bridget Gustafson. At 12-6, they have consistently given the Bears early points for strong starts to the duals.

Cal has the talent to be a great team, and at certain points throughout the season, it has shown that. It now becomes a matter of whether all its pairs can play their best at the same time, which will surely be a goal for all the matchups this weekend.

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