Cal aims for jackpot against ASU, Arizona

photo of Cal women's volleyball
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

Related Posts

Get that bread, that set, then leave.

What makes the world go round is famously one thing: money. If the Bears want a future in Pac-12 play this season, they will need to make it rain blue and gold this upcoming Halloween weekend.

Cal currently sits at the bottom of the conference, so its investment in the next two matches against ASU and Arizona will prove to be critical before the final month of Pac-12 play begins.

On Oct. 29, Cal will embark on a journey to make money moves against ASU at the Desert Financial Arena and hopes to pick up its first dub of the season. With a commitment to bettering their game play, the Bears feel positive entering their 11th conference matchup.

“We’ve been able to see the level of competition we’re capable of competing against in our last match against Washington … and that knowledge will give us confidence going into the games this weekend,” said redshirt junior middle blocker Bella Bergmark.

That confidence will certainly play into the team’s ability to hit the jackpot Friday, but it will need to budget its moves wisely, as opponent ASU currently boasts four more wins than Cal thus far. Given that both teams sit in the bottom half of the Pac-12 conference, however, the Bears have a greater chance at victory than they did against higher ranked teams they’ve previously battled.

Statistically speaking, the Sun Devils hold the upper hand against the Bears. ASU’s forte lies in its defense, which only overpowers its offense by a couple hundred. The team harbors 1,280 digs and averages 14.4 digs per set and holds 1,080 kills on a .221 hitting percentage. But given those numbers, the Sun Devils’ statistical advantage against the Bears is relatively slim.

Like ASU, Cal accelerates at defense. The team boasts 1034 digs and averages 13.8 digs per set –– not too far off from the Sun Devils. Cal also has 881 kills on a .196 hitting percentage, which lies only .025 behind ASU’s.

In terms of errors, though, Cal easily takes the cake. While the Bears’ average of 1.5 reception errors per set is only .1 greater than the Sun Devils, their ball handling errors greatly outnumber ASU. Cal’s 21 errors is quite a big difference from the Sun Devils’ nine.

But like senior outside hitter Mima Mirkovic said going into last week’s game against WSU, the team plans on tightening its teamwork in upcoming matches.

“Something that we really struggled with was finding ways to use the block to score points,” Bergmark said. “Being able to tool off the hand and aim high and deep in the court and keep the ball in play when it’s really chaotic will be important; those small adjustments will get us a lot more points.”

If those adjustments come into fruition, the Bears have a much stronger chance of emerging victorious against the Arizona teams this weekend.

On Oct. 31, Cal will battle Arizona at McKale Memorial Center, which ranks just above ASU for the No. 8 slot in the Pac-12. Although the team ranks above its Arizona rival because of its 12-9 overall record, unlike the Sun Devils, the Wildcats don’t hold a sweeping advantage over the Bears in terms of statistical comparisons.

Arizona is a well-balanced team, with its kills numbering 943 and digs at 1,054. But its advantage over Cal exists only in matches won and defensive play. The Wildcats average a .193 hitting percentage, just barely below the Bears’ .196. Arizona’s average 14.1 digs per set overpowers Cal’s 13.8, but less so than ASU’s 14.4.

Looking at the numbers can be helpful heading into any match, but there is no amount of statistical analysis that will be foretelling of the games ahead. The Bears will need to fight hard and leave their matches against the Sun Devils and Wildcats victorious. For the sake of its season, it’s the only option that makes “cents.”

Mia Wachtel covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].