Island getaway, tough competition in store for No. 11 Cal beach volleyball

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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No. 11 Cal beach volleyball will be getting an early taste of spring break vibes this weekend, as it flies off to Honolulu — the furthest the team will travel this season — for the Heineken Hawaii Invitational.

The Bears are riding high on a three-win streak that they hope to extend with their matches across the Pacific, but the island life won’t be easy.

Play will kick off early Saturday afternoon when Cal takes on No. 6 Hawaii. The last time the Bears faced the Bows was 2015 when they attended the Rainbow Wahine Spring Challenge, also in Honolulu. That match proved tough, as it ended in a 5-0 Hawaii sweep.

The Bows went 18-3 that season and made it to the American Volleyball Coaches Association National Championship. The Bears were not nearly as dominant in 2015 but have improved exponentially since. Hawaii will not be facing the same Cal team as before.

Hawaii will be the toughest competition that Cal has faced this season other than UCLA. Hawaii currently holds a record of 4-4, but you cannot judge a book by its cover, as its losses have come to No. 5 Pepperdine, No. 1 UCLA, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 LSU.

Hawaii’s schedule has been incredibly tough, so while that record may look low compared to Cal’s 7-1, the Bows are arguably far more prepared to face competitive opponents. The Bears’ victory against the No. 14 Stanford Cardinal last weekend looks promising, but they will have to be ready for an even higher caliber of play on Hawaii’s home turf.

Directly after that game, Cal will face Nebraska in the afternoon, followed by Boise State in the early evening.

The Huskers are currently 10-1 with their only loss coming early in the season against Concordia University. Even though this is already four more victories than Nebraska has ever seen in a season, the team shouldn’t be too intimidating for Cal since none of the victories have been against ranked opponents. Nebraska has a lot of tournament experience with its current team this season but is likely unprepared for Cal’s high level of play.

The Broncos have also only faced unranked opponents, and their record of 4-2 includes losses to Washington and No. 15 Arizona. Cal’s 4-1 victory against Washington early in the season suggests an advantage against Boise State.

So far, the Bears have shown that they can play up to their standard, even when faced with less competitive opponents. As long as they stay fired up after a tough match against Hawaii, they should add to their win count with the two later games.

The outcomes of Saturday’s games will determine the semifinals schedule Sunday. The Bears will have to contend with a tough competitor on enemy territory and a three-hour time difference, but if all goes to plan, Cal could see itself in the finals Sunday evening. The outcome of that match is anyone’s bet.

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