No. 12 Cal beach volleyball has been progressing through its season with a solid record and fiery competitive edge. With just under a month left in their season, the Bears traveled down to Phoenixfor the Pac-12 North Invitational tournament at Grand Canyon University.
This unique weekend pitted Cal against three teams it hadn’t yet played in this season, No. 2 USC, No. 20 Arizona State and No. 9 Arizona. The blue and gold also got to face No. 10 Stanford for the second time this year.
Overall, Cal came out of this weekend with a 1-3 record, making it one of the more difficult stretches in the Bears’ season thus far. That said, the team did manage to defeat its archrival Stanford, which ended a difficult weekend on a high note.
On Saturday, the blue and gold faced off against USC in the morning. The Trojans swept the Bears in a 5-0 blowout. Following this match, Arizona State also earned a win against Cal. However, the Bears kept things competitive as the contest ended 3-2.
“I think we definitely could have expected a better outcome,” said freshman Maya Gessner. “I think it could have been better but we put it all out there.
On the second day of the tournament, Cal returned to the sand with aggression and grit like never before.
Despite its best efforts, the blue and gold struggled against Arizona. Ultimately, the Wildcats prevailed by a score of 4-1. Seniors Mima Mirkovic and Caroline Schafer earned the Bears’ lone win of the match by a final of 21-14, 21-13.
“Arizona was a strong and consistent team which made it a tough match. It was also really hot and we weren’t able to pull ahead,” Gessner said.
Finally, Cal was set to play Stanford, a team that it lost to just a weekend prior. Yet, the team did not let its losses affect its grit and prowess over the Cardinal. Ultimately, the Bears got what they went to Phoenix hoping for most — a win over their archrival. In a hard-fought duel, Cal emerged victorious by a score of 3-2.
“We worked really hard and fought for our win. We never gave up,” Gessner said. “[Beating Stanford] was irreplaceable. It was definitely one of the top five moments of my whole volleyball career.”
During this match, Gessner had the opportunity to play alongside senior Maddie Micheletti, a team leader and mentor. This duo’s chemistry was superb, as it took a win over Stanford duo Maddie Dailey and Jordan McKinney in a three-set match.
“We both relied on each other and were positive throughout the whole match,” Gessner said. “I have so much trust in Maddie as an athlete.”
Ultimately, Gessner and Micheletti brought home bragging rights for Cal and secured the win against Stanford.
“We are going to hone in on our partnerships. As a team, we are going to focus on one of our team values, grit,” Gessner said.
This coming weekend, the beach volleyball team will look to get a winning streak rolling when it faces Pepperdine, Stanford and Saint Mary’s in Palo Alto, California.
Alisa Steel covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]