Cal beach volleyball (13-10) finds itself in an unenviable position. After the release of the Pac-12 Championships bracket Wednesday, it finds itself in a rematch situation, when it had probably hoped for more of a fresh start.
Cal’s opponents are the Arizona Wildcats who demolished the Bears, 5-0, last Saturday. It was not even close. Cal had to have had an idea of who its opponent was going to be based on the math, but seeing it in print makes the unfortunate reality of the rematch set in a bit more. It’s a tough break for the Bears, who will have to go right back and face the host team.
The Pac-12 tournament team bracket revealed that the Bears had earned the six seed, a result they surely knew was coming. The team will not have the advantage in the first round like last year, when it was the fourth seed.
The squad heads back to Tucson, Arizona, for the start of team play Thursday. Pairs will play Friday and into Saturday, should any Cal duos advance that far.
It is unclear what the Bears intend to do with their lineup. One thing is for certain: A drastic improvement has to be made. Disjointed and unfamiliar pairs were forced to take the court on Saturday, resulting in embarrassing results for Cal.
Regardless of the result, the Bears are guaranteed to get some matches in. A loss against the Wildcats would then move the Bears to the contender’s bracket, and this format could really benefit Cal and its harsh draw. Regardless, Cal will have to play from behind this weekend.
Meanwhile, in a separate bracket, each school gets to enter two pairs to compete on their own. Getting the call for the Bears are junior captain Bryce Bark and sophomore Olivia Rodberg, who will team up for the first time, as the 15 seed. Likewise, freshman Nicole Anderson and sophomore Grace Campbell will make their debut in matchplay. Campbell and Rodberg, who played with each other earlier this season and have since high school, will now have to cheer each other on while on different courts.
Anderson was not the most highly touted freshman of the group coming into this season for the Bears, but by working her way into the lineup, she has more than proved her worth to this team. Her opportunity to play in the pairs tournament is more than deserving.
Bark has experience playing the pairs tournament. She played with then-senior Kory Lamet, pushing the fourth-seeded Sun Devils to a third set that the Bears ultimately let slip away. With a new partner, Bark will not have much to lose.
Both Cal pairs have a play-in match, similar to the “first four” round used in March Madness.
Anderson and Campbell have a winnable first round match but would then potentially face the No.1 seed, Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes of USC. If Bark and Rodberg can get past an Oregon, they would then have the two seed of UCLA’s McNamara twins awaiting.
The Bears are not facing heavy expectation this weekend, but for their own sake, they will surely look to end this season on a positive note.
Charlie Griffen covers beach volleyball. Contact him at