Bears are resilient mammals that possess the ability to adapt and survive in various environments. Whether it be mountains, forests, tundra, deserts or grassy areas, it’s all fair game for the ferocious creatures.
This weekend, Cal volleyball will leave the hills of Berkeley and travel to a new environment as it encounters the first of its final four Pac-12 matches.
The Bears will trek to the Mountain States of Utah and Colorado, two teams that left them in defeat during their Oct. 15 and 17 home matches. Now that the team is in Ute and Buff territory, its inner bear will have to roar even louder as it attempts to leave the mountains victorious.
Cal will first face off against Utah — a tough competitor that currently ranks No. 17 nationally and fourth in conference — at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Nov. 18 . During their last game against the team, the Utes were fierce and the Bears were swept 0-3.
Given that Utah’s hitting percentage of .333 during the Oct. 17 match outrivaled Cal’s .160 by a landslide, the Bears are optimistic that they can show a better performance. Freshman setter Annalea Maeder remarked on the value of communication after Cal’s match against Washington this past weekend.
“When we don’t communicate, unforced errors happen frequently, and we get ourselves out of that game, and we don’t ever get the chance to get that momentum, which is something that we really need to win sets,” Maeder said.
During their last faceoff, the Bears racked up 25 errors while the Utes took only 10. With the difference in hitting percentages that each team walked away with in the match, those errors were increasingly detrimental and ultimately impacted the 0-3 outcome.
The Utah team is tough and has an 18-7 overall record to show for it, but Bears can achieve incredible things in times of distress. The team might just be able to pull off that miracle Nov. 18.
On Nov. 21, the Bears will continue east on their trek to hit Colorado, where they will face the Buffs at the CU Events Center. Like Cal, Colorado sits near the bottom of the Pac-12 conference and will be the less intimidating mountain opponent.
The Bears did previously lose to the Buffs 0-3, a straight sweep like they experienced against the Utes, which saw Cal have an incredibly hard time responding to Colorado’s defense. The Buffs’ .240 hitting percentage was certainly a contributor to their win against the Bears, but it truly was their defense that clinched the game for the team.
Colorado’s defense left Cal in the dust with a -.043 hitting percentage, and only redshirt junior Bella Bergmark was able to hit greater than .150 with six kills. So while Utah may appear to be the fiercer competitor, which in the Pac-12 it undeniably is, the Buffs may rival that ferocity given its gameplay in their last match against Cal.
Cal has had a tough conference thus far, still yet to tally a single win in all 16 of its matches. The team has come close but blunders in gameplay as resilient play of opponents has been difficult for the team to match.
The team has the drive, determination and skill to pull off a win this coming weekend, though, if it’s able to make adjustments to its communication and teamwork. The Bears are cunning and ferocious and thrive in an incredible number of environments, so their trip to the mountains this weekend might just result in blue and gold victory.
Mia Wachtel covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].