A month has passed since Cal last faced the rival Oregon teams and returned home with tears streaming a sad blue and gold. But on Nov. 5 and 7, Cal will brave the teams one last time as it takes its final shots at redemption.
And this time, there is one critical difference.
Unlike its last faceoffs, Cal has the home advantage, something that is wholly known to uplift the morale of the home team. Playing alongside supportive teammates is one thing, but playing before a lively crowd whose unequivocal support is for you can drastically boost a team’s game play.
That added support will only supplement the Bears, as it’ll all come down to their performance Friday. Luckily, according to junior outside hitter Leah Schmidt, the team is on its way to perfecting just that.
“Our future is really bright if we can find what works for us. We have amazing and talented girls on this team with lots of skill and potential, and when we can become a little more consistent in our play, I think we’ll be a really tough team to beat,” Schmidt said.
The Bears’ skills certainly pack a powerful punch, and by tightening their play and dwindling down those errors, that punch will fly much further. Cal’s first Oregon opponent are the Beavers, a squad whose overall and Pac-12 stats fail to rival the Bears all that much.
Overall, the Bears’ standing of 7-16 beats the Beavers’ 3-19. Not to mention, their hitting percentage of .190 outmatches OSU’s .165. And, to Cal’s favor, the Beavers have one large hole in their play that the Bears can use to their advantage: OSU only averages .9 aces per set while allowing 1.5.
But the Oregon team does have one accomplishment this season that carries considerable weight –– its Oct. 10 victory against Cal. Although it’s the team’s only conference victory, the pressure still lies on the chest of the 0-12 Bears.
And Cal will not only have to redeem itself against the Corvallis team but also against Oregon from Eugene.
The home match against the Ducks will be much trickier than the Friday duel given the sizable difference in the performances of the Oregon teams. The Bears have a much bigger reason to be afraid of the No. 18 Ducks than they do the Beavers.
Unlike OSU, Oregon outplays the Bears in every category. Sitting at 16-6 overall and 7-5 in Pac-12 play, the team is a force to be reckoned with. Its .234 hitting percentage outnumbers the Bears’ .190, and its work at the service line is tighter: Oregon averages 1.1 aces per set while allowing .8, as opposed to Cal’s average of 1.3 and allowance of 1.5 aces per set.
But what will pose the biggest challenge for the Bears will be Oregon’s blocking. The team averages 2.4 blocks per set, while Cal averages only 1.8. According to redshirt junior middle blocker Bella Bergmark, the Bears struggle with adjusting to the block.
“It’ll be really important to adjust to what the block looks like on the outside and right side. Even in our season in the spring, one thing that we really struggled with was finding ways to use the block to score points,” Bergmark said.
If the Bears can make those minor improvements, the outcome of the Nov. 7 game might result in Cal victory. There are only six more matches after the games against the rival Oregon teams, so it is vital that the Bears win these final redemption shots.
Mia Wachtel covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].