Bears bare 2 losses to Sun Devils, to try again against Wildcats

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As a barista, it is important to remember that not all flavors should be mixed. For instance, a black and white mocha with two pumps of orange syrup, two pumps of peppermint syrup and three pumps of vanilla will not taste good, no matter how much a customer might hope so. All of those flavors in a drink individually might be good (well, perhaps with the exception of peppermint). But together, they make nothing more than an overly sweet, minty, citrusy drink.

Similarly, volleyball enthusiasts probably recognize that while Cal volleyball is doing some great stuff on the court, it doesn’t always turn out the way the team, or fans, would like.

“We all want ourselves to be executing 100% of the time, but it’s just not the reality of the sport we play,” said opposite hitter Sam Taumoepeau. “We are doing a lot of good things out there, but just being able to put all the pieces together consistently would be good.”

The team had high hopes heading to Tempe last weekend to play Arizona State. With both teams at the bottom of the Pac-12, it seemed like an even match. Unfortunately for Cal fans, the Bears lost both matches 3-0, leaving them at the bottom of the pack for another week, this time with Stanford right above them. Cal’s woes seem even worse considering the Cardinal canceled its last two matches due to COVID-19 concerns.

“We’re really just working on being scrappy defensively and just being able to do whatever it takes to keep the ball off the ground,” Taumoepeau said. “In terms of hitting, we’ve been working on using the block and hitting high hard and deep. But after the match, I think mostly what we want to work on for this week is to just really pick up all the little plays and take care of the super easy balls that will allow us to play our game and run the offense”

Middle blocker Lydia Grote continues to lead the team in kills, finding the floor seven times Friday and 13 times Sunday. But Grote’s performances weren’t enough as Arizona outside hitter Marta Levinska scored a match-high 15 kills Friday and outside hitter Iman Isanovic got a match-high 17 kills Sunday.

There are only six matches left in the season, and at this point, the Bears are more concerned about getting match experience under their belts than they are about their record.

“For skill and technique, there’s not too much time to adjust that stuff,” Taumoepeau said. “But we’re just going to be coming out with fire and a bit of a chip on our shoulder in these last six matches and just being super relentless in the fight out there.”

Cal will host Arizona at Haas Pavilion this Friday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Wildcats are coming off a two-match series sweep against Colorado, and they are currently sitting at sixth in the Pac-12. Outside hitter Sofia Maldonado Diaz has earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors twice so far this season, and libero Kamaile Hiapo was awarded Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week in early February, so the Bears will certainly have to step up both offensively and defensively.

While it won’t be an easy match for Cal, the team is continuously working on making adjustments with its motto in mind: “one day better.”

“Well, I definitely think we wished for a better outcome in terms of winning, but you know this whole season has definitely been a big learning experience,” Taumoepeau said. “I think just taking these matches and putting them under our belt and keep learning from them and just try and get one day better.”

Amber Fang covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].