Early Pac-12 matches highlight Cal volleyball’s 2018-19 schedule

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Vacation is nearly over for Cal volleyball and the countdown to opening day of the Bears’ 2018 season has already begun. Cal has a lot to prepare for, with just two months until the Bears host their first tournament of the year.

Cal will kick off the season with its annual Cal Molten Classic on Aug. 24 to 25. The Bears will host Chicago State, Rutgers and Colgate — all teams from the Midwest and East Coast — for the opening festivities. The competition Cal sees that weekend will likely be a mellow introduction to what may come in the next few months.

The Bears will be on the road for back-to-back weekends after the tournament. They will first travel to South Dakota to play three matches before heading back west for the Portland State Tournament.

Cal certainly struggled playing on the road last year (2-10), so the Bears’ performance throughout these two weekends will be crucial for gauging just how far the Bears have come — or have yet to go.

The team will then return to the Bay Area for its final two preseason matches. After hosting Pacific on Sept. 13, the Bears will play at St. Mary’s on Sept. 15 — Cal certainly has a history with both teams. While the Bears have had a string of success over the Gaels, Cal suffered its first away loss to Pacific in a tight 3-2 match last year, and fell 3-0 the year before. To say they are hungry for a win would be an understatement.

Cal will open Pac-12 play at home on Sept. 19 against its biggest rival — Stanford. The match will be followed by three more home matches, against ASU, UCLA and USC. It will be advantageous for the Bears to face arguably their toughest opponents at home for the first time.

The Bears will then travel to Colorado and Utah before facing Washington State and Washington at home the weekend of Oct. 12. The team will then wrap up the first round of Pac-12 play up in Oregon, where Cal will play Oregon and OSU on Oct. 19 and Oct. 21, respectively.

The latter half of conference play will feature a fair balance of away and home matches before the Bears conclude their regular season with a four-match away stretch.

The Bears will feature sophomore Mima Mirkovic, who had a standout freshman season as an all-around outside hitter last fall and on the beach volleyball courts during the spring. Mirkovic, along with fellow sophomore middle blocker Preslie Anderson, will be among Cal’s main offensive assets.

Setter senior Mackenzie Albrecht, last year’s co-captain, will return to the court for her final season with the Bears after suffering a season-ending injury during the middle of conference play last year.

Although the Bears failed to make it to the NCAA tournament last year and graduated star hitters Christine Alftin and Antzela Dempi, they welcome six talented freshmen faces to the roster in hopes of pushing the program further.

Another change to the program is the Bears’ coaching staff. Cal will be led by head coach Jennifer Dorr, who served as an assistant coach in previous seasons and interim head coach for a brief period last season after former head coach Matt McShane took a leave of absence.

Filling Dorr’s position is Amir Lugo-Rodriguez who will be joining Spencer McLachlin as an assistant coach for the team.

The Bears begin their official training camp in early August, although many players are already working on their skills right now.

Cal volleyball’s 2017 season ended with eight consecutive losses but there is little chance the team’s 2018 season will start out remotely the same.

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