The last time Cal volleyball saw No. 10 Oregon, Cal head coach Matt McShane said that if the team had played at Haas Pavilion, the Bears would have won. His statement holds huge sums of weight, but his words will be put to the test this weekend when the Bears have the opportunity to validate McShane’s assertion as they face the Ducks in the second round of Pac-12 play.
Oregon, unlike Cal, has not been on the road for many of its matches. Having played only five of their 20 matches in true enemy territory, the Ducks will certainly be entering an unfamiliar environment this Friday. The Bears also have a strong home record going for them, having only dropped two matches in Haas Pavilion.
Looking beyond the environment of the match, though, Cal will have to be prepared to counter Oregon’s offense. The Ducks average a .270 hitting percentage, and last time the two teams met, the Bears were only able to record five blocks.
While Oregon’s offense is strong, a Pac-12 team is not a Pac-12 team without a defense to complement it. This week in practice, Cal has been working specifically on improving setting to increase accuracy of hitters’ attacks.
“We’re a little inconsistent with our sets,” McShane said. “The setters are working hard. We’ve made their target area a little bit smaller, so they’re trying to get the ball into little bit smaller, little bit better areas for our hitters to be able to hit better.”
In their last encounter, the Bears ended with a then-season-low hitting percentage of .041. With all the setter-hitter practice Cal has been focusing on, the Bears are determined to not let history repeat itself — or get even remotely close.
In last weekend’s matches, three setters — freshmen Isabel Potter and Jordyn Schuette and junior Mackenzie Albrecht — saw time on the court. Albrecht had concussion symptoms a few weeks ago and rolled her ankle in practice Tuesday, but McShane says she should be able to play Friday.
Fellow captain Christine Alftin, who sprained her ankle in the same match as Albrecht, will likely not be present on the court against Oregon.
“It’s day to day,” McShane said. “(Alftin) was out of the boot, walking around a little bit, doing a few more things today, but we won’t know till Friday.”
After Friday’s match against the Ducks, the Bears will play Oregon State on Sunday, also at home. Like with Oregon, the Bears lost to the Beavers in straight sets at their last meeting in October.
Cal will have to bring better defense against the Beavers as well. Oregon State’s Mary-Kate Marshall is second in the Pac-12 for kills, recording 4.61 kills/set. Cal’s hitter with the best kill percentage is senior Antzela Dempi, at 2.81 kills/set.
Oregon State also recently defeated two nationally ranked teams in then-No. 14 Washington, 3-2, and then-No. 12 Utah, 3-1.
The Bears will certainly have to fight hard against the two Oregon teams — which have both shown that they do not fall easily — but perhaps the home environment will aid the battle.
Surina Khurana covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]