Coming hot off a 3-2 upset over then-No. 24 Utah, Cal volleyball is ready to keep stirring the pot as it hosts Washington and Washington State this weekend.
“It’s definitely nice having that win under our belt, but now we’re only as good as our next one,” Cal head coach Jennifer Dorr said. “It’s unfortunately a short-lived celebration. We need to go out and get another one.”
The No. 18 Huskies, set to play the Bears on Friday, surrendered matches to Utah, 3-1, and Arizona State, 3-0, in this first round of Pac-12 play. The Bears, too, fell to the Sun Devils, but their mere 3-2 loss and victory over Utah suggests that Cal has the talent and ability to topple Washington.
Although the Huskies have a strong, favored history over the Bears, having won their past 11 meetings, there is no limit on the Bears’ potential; Cal will have to work hard for a win, but the Huskies certainly will, too.
After nearly toppling Washington a few weeks ago, Washington State continues to be included in the AVCA Coaches Top 25 rankings, claiming the No. 21 slot.
“Both teams are very different in their styles of play, so it will be a challenge for us to adjust in each match,” Dorr said.
Although Cal doesn’t have a comparable ranking to boast, the Bears and Cougars share some similarities. Win or lose, both squads have proven this season that they won’t go down without a fight.
Washington State took all three of its losses to five sets, and although Cal has tallied up a few more losses, entering this weekend with a 9-8 record, the Bears haven’t been swept since their opening conference match against No. 2 Stanford.
Washington State is led offensively by Taylor Mims, who currently ranks in the Pac-12’s top five for kills per set and number of kills. Fueling her power, the Cougars’ setter Ashley Brown ranks fifth in the Pac-12 with her 10.59 assists per set.
Cal’s steadily improving defense, featuring middle blocker Lauren Forte at the front and Kat Knop in the back, will need to remain disciplined on both ends of the court to come out ahead this weekend.
The Bears’ performances lately have demonstrated both their growth and potential throughout the season. Proving herself as one of Cal’s most consistent players, sophomore setter Isabel Potter has been running the Bears’ 6-2 offense with freshman Jade Blevins, and a handful of times, the 5’9” Potter has run a 5-1.
Potter’s and Blevins’ connections with their hitters across the net — not just at the left pin — have been instrumental in propelling the team forward this season.
“We look at how they play, how they compete, their individual strengths in each position,” Dorr said. “I know they’ll be well-prepared for us, and we need to be the same in return. I can really only focus on how well my team is doing and how we’ll compete against them.”