Some stories just write themselves, for better or worse. In the case of the Cal beach volleyball team, they’ve taken it upon themselves to write their own. With five straight sweeps of their competition, the Bears are doing more than just meeting the lofty expectations they’ve set for the season — they’re on track to exceed them.
Managing to keep the momentum going from their last match in Moraga on Feb. 22 against St. Mary’s, the Bears came out firing against Utah and UC Davis on Saturday. The ongoing narrative for the Bears squad coming into the season was the emphasis on their mental preparation, and it shined through in each game.
“You can think it, believe it, but until you go through (the) matches, in those intense, stressful moments, get through the other side, that’s what really locks in that confidence,” said acting head coach Derek Olson.
“They’re starting to show that what we worked on all week (in) preparation is coming through,” Olson said. Securing a victory in a beach volleyball match shows perseverance and poise, as momentum can often determine the victors, no matter how good you are. But the Bears’ dominance over these past five matches signifies their potential for great things. The team has now won 11 straight games at home dating back to last season, and across the last four, they showed excellent composure and the right amount of confidence.
In addition to the confidence that has defined this squad’s success up to this point, it is the simultaneous humility that Olson believes will allow them to improve upon their already excellent showing.
“We’re going to stay humble all season. We always need to have the right amount of fear going into every match,” Olson said.
But if any of the games this past weekend are any indication, the squad shows no fear in the face of adversity, making it hard to tell that they fear any at all.
Against Arizona State, which defeated Cal in the Pac-12 tournament last season, the squad delivered a performance that was quite possibly more impressive than any so far. Facing possibly their toughest competition, the Bears managed to secure a gritty victory.
The pairing of senior Madison Dueck and junior Alexia Inman served as an embodiment of Coach Olson’s sentiments of mental preparation and poise, as they’ve now moved up to 5-1 on the season. The pair particularly turned out an impeccable defensive performance. A noticeable characteristic of the pairing is their chemistry and body language, which often go a long way in a game where momentum constantly is shifting.
“They have experience playing with each other, so that definitely goes a long way. They communicate with each other and they’re just in a groove. They trust each other,” Olson said.
Coming into the season ranked No. 11, there was never a question about the type of skill that the blue and gold possess. In addition to their talent, the Bears make the most of it by playing for each other.
By securing its first ranked win of the year against Arizona State, Cal can now rest assured after dropping its first ranked match against GCU. With each passing weekend, it becomes unmistakable that the team is only gaining more confidence and will be ready for moments bigger than what they’ve faced so far. And while this early success may come as a surprise to some, one can be sure that the rest of the Pac-12, and soon the nation, will be put on notice.
Sean Applegate covers beach volleyball. Contact him at