No. 11 Cal beach volleyball travels to warmer weather, facing top schools

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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Unlike sports such as soccer, football or baseball, beach volleyball goes on despite rain. While those unfamiliar with the sport might envision every match taking place on a beautiful, white sand beach next to the ocean under a warm sun, beach players are known for their ability to battle through extreme conditions, from scorching sand to pouring rain.

Berkeley’s forecast this weekend shows a predictably high chance of rain. Luckily for the Cal beach volleyball team, however, the tournament this weekend will be much closer to the naive ideals of a beach volleyball fantasy.

For their first away tournament of the season, the Bears will be traveling to Tucson, Arizona for two days of play against conference competition. The mild forecast of 78 degrees should offer the team a welcome respite from the rain-drenched sand courts of Clark Kerr.

“I’m really excited about next weekend,” said head coach Meagan Owusu. “It’s a great opportunity to show how hard we’ve worked this offseason and see how we match up against some of the top teams in our conference.”

Though their season opener against Santa Clara and USF last weekend was an easy victory for the Bears, the team still maintained a consistent level of play and communication, using the tri-tournament as an opportunity to practice for more important events. Their performance pushed them up in the American Volleyball Coaches Association rankings to No. 11, the highest mark in program history.

“They did a wonderful job not only in serve-receive but also in transition of running different plays to create pressure on the defense,” Owusu said.

These skills will be crucial if Cal hopes to be competitive against defending champion No. 1 UCLA, who the team will face Sunday morning.

Cal will have Saturday to prepare for that match with play against both Washington and Arizona State on the same day. Last season, the Bears handily defeated the Sun Devils twice and the Huskies three times. With that record, this first day of the Pac-12 South tournament could end up looking a lot like last weekend as long as the Bears keep their consistency.

UCLA, on the other hand, only met Cal once on the sand in 2018 and walked away with a resounding 5-0 victory. This Sunday will mark just the first of many difficult matchups on the Bears’ schedule.

The Bruins have already asserted their dominance this season — their first week left them with a perfect record of 5-0 even after playing other powerhouses such as No. 7 Cal Poly, No. 3 Pepperdine and No. 6 Hawai’i.

One factor that may affect the outcome of the Bears’ matchup with the Bruins is the pairings. Last weekend, four of the five competitive pairs for Cal had never played in a tournament together before. Given that not one pair lost even a single set the whole day, the duos seem to be doing well so far. That new chemistry could prove a vital tool.

Still, no matter the weather and no matter the partner, the Bears will have to work harder than ever this weekend if they want a chance to dethrone the top team in the nation and further improve their already rising rank.

Alison White covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].