No. 14 Cal beach volleyball takes home win, improves to 14-3

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Eggs, butter, flour and sugar — the essential components of a fluffy, moist and tasty cake. No. 14 Cal women’s volleyball has been cooking up its opponents all season long, and the icing on the cake was a win over USF.

The Bears frosted their overall record to 14-3, following a clean home victory over the Dons.

USF (2-9) has lost its past four duals, struggling against Pacific, SJSU and St. Mary’s, and while some teams let up against weaker teams, Cal showed no sympathy this weekend.

Cal not only won the five matches in straight sets — staying far from any tiebreakers — but also limited its USF foes to single digits in three sets.

Sophomore Iya Lindahl and senior Jessica Gaffney — Cal’s No. 2 pair — notably beat USF’s graduate student Haley Howell and sophomore Carly Lowry, 21-13, 21-9.

“Our mindset was to get a win for our team, focus on our side of the net and play well,” Lindahl said. “We had a really great week of practice. We were all so focused — even though it was spring break, we knew what we had to do.”

The win was important for the duo, as the two struggled last weekend against some of their ranked opponents, including then-No.11 Arizona and No. 2 UCLA. Translating a week of practice into play, Gaffney and Lindahl played with renewed focus to come out the clear victors.

The two weren’t alone.

Cal’s all-freshmen pair of Mima Mirkovic and Alexia Inman also dominated in their match, winning both sets, 21-16. The Bears’ No. 5 pair — junior Grace Campbell and freshman Maddie Micheletti — also came out with a decisive 21-14, 21-9 win.

The most interesting match, though, may have been between the No. 4 pairs, as Cal’s team of junior Mia Merino and freshman Caroline Schafer battled a Bear-turned-Don. For Schafer, the match wasn’t particularly interesting, but Merino once called USF graduate student Sabrina Blackwell her teammate.

Though Merino’s former teammate was now her opponent and rival, she maintained her cool as she and Schafer rolled past the Dons.

Throughout the first half of the season, the Bears have shown growth, even in the team’s losses. Whether it was beating then-No. 11 Arizona, 4-1, or falling to No. 4 USC in a tight 3-2 match, Cal has proven its 2018 roster is far different from any before.

The win over USF emphasizes how far the Bears have come in recent years.

When Cal’s beach volleyball program was first started, the Bears struggled against teams like USF. In fact, the Bears fell to the Dons in 2014 and 2015 before scraping off a 4-1 win in 2016. After not facing each other in the 2017 season, the teams are now at an even 2-2 record.

Though the players enter each dual focused on not much else but the game they bring to the courts, each time they leave the sand, the Bears make the words “strength” and “perseverance” more and more synonymous with Cal beach volleyball.

Having already established their name against beach giants like USC, the Bears’ win over USF was pure icing on the cake.

Surina Khurana covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].