After reaching its highest ever ranking and maintaining a nine-game winning streak with an ultimate record of 9-1, Cal beach volleyball was at its prime and making history in the 2020 season. The Bears saw success as they jumped from being ranked No. 11 in the preseason poll to No. 9, after beating Pac-12 rival USC, who was ranked No. 5 at the time. However, this successful, exhilarating season was unexpectedly cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the team with eagerness and fans with unanswered questions.
Before the season’s end, seniors Alexia Inman and Maddie Micheletti solidified their standing as the battery of the team. Their leadership has allowed them to become two of the biggest personalities of the team, providing teammates with motivation and spirit as the team moves into the upcoming spring season.
While they may be more optimistic now, the Bears haven’t always been upbeat through these times.
“It was heartbreaking to say the least because we were on a good path,” Inman said.
The sting of the cancellations lowered morale for a while, but the Bears have begun to prepare and excite themselves for upcoming practices and a spring season.
The team has been training both physically and mentally during the pandemic. Many beach volleyball courts were closed in Southern California and around the country, prompting many players to take time to train themselves for the mental aspect of being an athlete.
“It has been a great opportunity to work on the mental game. For athletes, it’s given us a chance to reflect inward and focus on how to improve yourself,” Inman said.
Through watching film and doing at-home workouts with minimal heavy lifting, the Bears have been conditioning to the best of their abilities.
Given that many athletes are not living in a short radius of each other, as they would normally, the team dynamic has shifted. According to Micheletti, the team typically would spend nearly every day of the week together and the teammates share bonds similar to a sisterhood.
However, with Wednesday team meetings, a buddy system that improves communication among the players, the Bears are intending to keep their team’s relationships as strong as before. Currently, they are gearing up for in-person meetings and practices, elevating their morale and hopes for the upcoming season.
As veterans of the squad who have seen what the team can accomplish, Inman and Micheletti are itching to get back into a game setting and leave all of their effort on the sand of the Clark Kerr courts.
“I feel super optimistic with it being my last season here and I want to go out with a bang,” Micheletti said.
Both players are hungry to work with their teammates to continue making program history and to accomplish larger goals than ever before. They are also ready to finally re-engage in a beach volleyball environment.
“I’m excited to get back into that atmosphere yelling and screaming — having that amazing energy that competition brings,” Inman said.
With the yearning for the positive atmosphere of a beach volleyball match comes the excitement and goal of entering the NCAA playoffs, a feat the Cal program has yet to achieve.
The Bears’ beach volleyball team is prepared to report back Dec. 26 for quarantine, a positive sign insinuating a full season on the lookout. Both Inman and Micheletti are eager to quarantine with their team in preparation for the season. Micheletti believes that sticking together and leaning on her teammates for support during these unprecedented times is the best way for the beach volleyball team to recuperate and have its most elite season yet.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Inman said, as she thinks of words of wisdom she offers her teammates.
As the Bears head into a season in which they can finish from where they left off, Inman said she believes only good things will come the team’s way with training, conditioning, time and patience.
Alisa Steel covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].