The Cal beach volleyball team (13-7) had undeniably hit a slump in the past few weeks. Whatever the mental states of the players were headed into the weekend, the results of the players were that of a confident team. The Bears rounded out their home schedule by taking down Washington 4-1 on Friday afternoon before making the quick drive to Palo Alto on Saturday where they defeated Boise State and Oregon, 3-2 and 4-1, respectively.
“The girls had a little rough patch, and they did a great job of looking forward,” said Cal head coach Meagan Schmitt. “They came out this weekend hungry for some wins.”
Returning to the same courts where they fell short against rival Stanford earlier in the week, the Bears were poised for revenge.
Schmitt encouraged her players to stick to their brand of “Cal volleyball.” She has emphasized to her young team all season long that they play to their strengths of consistency and craftiness, often leading to success against many powerful indoor players that they faced.
“All three of our opponents this weekend were relatively this same style. They were big indoor girls that like to hammer, but were not as familiar with the sand,” Schmitt said. “Our girls came in confident, knowing that their experience on this surface would give us a huge advantage.”
Junior team captain Bryce Bark and freshman Camille Stepanof impressed this weekend. They are relatively new to the team, but looked to finally be getting in the groove of playing together. After a key third-set comeback against Boise State’s No. 3 pair of junior Sierra Nobley and sophomore Sabryn Roberts, they ended their weekend with an emphatic victory against the Ducks. In arguably their best match of the season together, Bark and Stepanof took down the Ducks in a 21-13, 21-11 beatdown.
As per usual, the No. 4 and No. 5 pairs were clutch for Cal and went undefeated on the weekend. The two pairs stay neck and neck with the best record on the squad at 15-6. The No. 5 pair of junior captain Teya Neff and freshman Bridget Gustafson has earned slight bragging rights considering it did not drop a set in the three duals. All-freshmen No. 4 duo of Nicole Anderson and Iya Lindahl, however, was not far behind at all.
Perhaps the winning ways of the bottom half of the lineup have become so common that they have come to be taken as a given. Nonetheless, their under-the-radar wins are the reason why the Bears had so much success.
Freshman Madison Dueck made her debut in the main lineup this weekend, playing with junior Jessica Gaffney at the No. 1 pair in the matches against Washington and Oregon. Although they lost both, the duo showed great improvement in the matchup with the Ducks on Saturday. Considering a freshman jumped right into the top spot at the last minute, the losses have to be forgiven. Failing to get to double digits in either set against the Huskies, Gaffney and Dueck showed great fight in two tight sets Saturday, 21-15 and 21-19.
With the Bears back on track and the final regular-season matches approaching this weekend, the team has reclaimed its identity and form. If it can maintain its play of late, its close to the season will reflect the fight it has shown all season.
Charlie Griffen covers beach volleyball. Contact him at