Bears at the beach: Cal beach volleyball returns

Photo of Cal Beach Volleyball player passing the ball
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

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Bears typically spend five to seven months in hibernation. Their heart rate slows; their body temperature decreases, and they do not eat or drink anything during that time. So, as you can imagine, they come out hungry and ready to feast. This weekend, the Bears are coming out of hibernation — not in the chilly North American tundra, but rather on the beaches in sunny Southern California. 

Cal women’s beach volleyball is opening the 2022 season this weekend with a full slate of matches in Southern California. The Bears are coming into the season ranked 11th nationally. This ranking continues a four-year streak of being a national top-12 team. They will look to start the season off strong against some top opponents and solidify their position in the poll.

Led by two experienced captains, juniors Kate Bierly and Ainsley Radell, the team is packed with young and explosive talent. Ten of the team’s 19 total players are first and second years, and it’s tacking on three more senior transfers. The blue and gold have a lot of new players who are ready to showcase their skill this weekend. 

“We are a very new team and have a lot of talent. We all feel ready, and I feel good going into (the weekend),” Bierly said. 

The past four years the blue and gold have hovered from No. 8 to No. 12 in the rankings, never quite qualifying for nationals as only the top eight teams are eligible to go. This year, however, the Bears have a strong chance. Not only because of their deep and dynamic, young roster, but also because the NCAA has expanded the nationals format from eight to 16 teams that make the trip. 

A new coaching staff for the beach volleyball team worked hard this offseason to prepare the Bears for the beginning of the season and to perhaps make a big nationals run. They have focused on a key piece of the game that should give their opponents a test during matches. 

“We’ve just had a lot of focus on aggressive serving, so I think that’s gonna be a huge difference and a new element that they haven’t seen from us yet,” Bierly said.

Their weekend begins with a noon matchup against CSUN at the Ocean Beach Courts. Their second matchup will be their first true test of the season: No. 4 Loyola Marymount. Right out of the gates, we will see how the blue and gold stack up against one of the top teams in the country. The Golden Bears will then travel to Irvine on Saturday for matchups against No. 15 Long Beach and Irvine Valley College. 

“I’m hoping to end the weekend with some wins,” Bierly said. “We’ll feel pretty good if we get some wins under our belt.”

Four matches in two days is a lot of beach and a big opening weekend for the blue and gold. Their opponents are nothing to scoff at either; it will be a good test for the Golden Bears to prove that they are a nationals-caliber team. How they handle these matches will show if the Bears have come out of hibernation low in energy or hungry and ready to feast.

Emery Goulet covers men’s golf and beach volleyball. Contact him at [email protected].