Cal beach volleyball completes its regular season, moves on to Pac-12 Championships

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In its last meet before the Pac-12 Championships, No. 10 Cal beach volleyball came out of an action-packed weekend with a 1-2 record. Though they put their best effort forward, the blue and gold fell to both No. 8 Grand Canyon and No. 5 Loyola Marymount but bounced back to defeat San Jose State in their last match of the tournament.

To begin the weekend, the Bears headed across the Bay to the Stanford courts to face off against Grand Canyon University for the first time this season.

“The mindset was revenge from last season,” said senior Mima Mirkovic. “We had lost to them last season. We went into the match to find our own flow and play for each other.”

Early in the match, the Bears lost two games. However, senior Maddie Micheletti and freshman Maya Gessner seized control of the match when they defeated Grand Canyon duo Katie Sarber and Natalie Honzovicova 21-15, 21-13, claiming the Bears’ first win of the weekend.

Ultimately, the Antelopes beat the Bears by a final score of three games to two. Despite this loss, Cal moved on quickly to prepare for the next day.

“We were bummed because we had opportunities that we did not take advantage of. We had close matches all around. We didn’t dwell on it, though. We had a lot of forward thinking,” Mirkovic said.

On Sunday, the blue and gold returned to their last day of regular-season competition. On this momentous day, the Bears honored their seniors and all of the accomplishments they have achieved while playing on the Cal beach volleyball squad. Seniors Katie Smoot, Alexia Inman, Micheletti, Caroline Schafer and Cassidy Drury-Pullen were all recognized for the leadership and efforts they provided to Cal beach volleyball for the past four years.

After the Senior Day ceremony, Cal proceeded to face off against Loyola Marymount for the second time this season.

Sophomore Ainsley Radell and junior Jordan Polo kicked off the match with a three-set match. The duo overcame a first-set loss and ended up defeating Loyola Marymount 10-21, 21-18, 15-12.

Following this triumph, the Bears had a tough time and ultimately fell 4-1.

Despite the tough start to the weekend, the Bears had one final chance to dominate on the sand courts and take home a win for Cal.

On Sunday afternoon, the blue and gold went up against San Jose State for the first time this semester.

The Bears quickly pounced on the Spartans and won the first four matches, quickly claiming their win. Partners Grace Paulson and Smoot were the first duo to defeat San Jose, setting off a domino effect for the rest of the squad.

In the last game of the day, freshman Ava Mann and senior Inman battled it out in a three-set battle, ultimately falling to the Spartans 21-17, 20-22, 13-15.

San Jose State lost to Cal by a final tally of 4-1, marking the team’s only win of the weekend.

“I was proud of everyone for taking the two losses and not losing focus,” Mirkovic said.

Cal will be traveling down the coast to Mapes Beach in Los Angeles to compete in the Pac-12 Championships. The competition will commence Thursday and conclude Saturday.

The beach volleyball squad has been preparing for this postseason competition all year, keeping its eyes not only on a Pac-12 Championships victory but also on making memories and enjoying the last tournament of the year.

“For me personally, this is my last ride with my senior class. This is super bittersweet,” Mirkovic said. “I am going into this tournament as it is the grand finale of what my class has worked towards. We started off as a program that nobody cared about and it is awesome to see what we have built.”

The Bears will be challenged in brand-new ways and look to take home some pride from their competition in Los Angeles.

Alisa Steel covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].