As leaves continue to fall, Northern California has been increasingly cold. It’s safe to say that the Bears have followed a similar theme.
To kick off the month of November, Cal hosts, yet serves as underdogs, to the Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes. At Haas Pavilion, the blue and gold will try to snap their undesirable 12-game losing streak to give fans something to cheer about.
Winless in Pac-12 play, the Bears were last victorious on Sep. 17, when they defeated UC Davis 3-2 in Berkeley. Since then, Cal has dropped their last 12 contests by a combined set score of 3-36. Em-bear-assing.
However, the season isn’t over by any means. Cal has the opportunity to start fresh in its last month of play, as it first begins its eight match journey with a duel against the Buffs.
Colorado comes into town flexing a confident 15-7 record and a two-game win streak. Looking to build on their successful stretch, the Buffs will be reliant on their junior outside hitter, Maya Tabron, who has 271 kills and 167 digs on the season. She’ll see support from twin towers on defense, Meegan Hart and Alexia Kuehl, who serve as threatening middle blockers with their respective 97 and 101 blocks on the year.
The faceoff with the black and gold should benefit the youngsters of Cal. Freshman middle blockers Mikayla Hayden and Sophie Scott share a combined 159 blocks, meaning the clash of defending duos should be a block party and learning experience for fans and players alike.
As usual, junior opposite Lydia Grote will be a pain for opponents as she leads the Bears with 276 kills, followed by outside hitter and fellow junior Leah Schmidt, who has 200 blocks.
The two teams met prior in early October, and that game went directly in Colorado’s favor – as they defeated Cal 3-0. Though, that contest saw Cal drop the last two sets 23-25 and 22-25, meaning the matchup wasn’t terribly lopsided. This time around, perhaps a second look at the Buffs will allow the blue and gold to correct their errors.
After what should be a competitive affair and far from a sweep on Friday night, the Utes roll into Berkeley looking to duplicate their sweeping of the Bears, which took place Oct. 7.
In that contest, junior libero Vanessa Ramirez proved to be vital with nine digs and strong defensive efforts – in part with sophomore outside hitter Lauren Jardine, who posted a steady 11 kills.
To be on the winning side of things, Cal will need to have another strong performance from junior libero Tara DeSara, who led the Bears with 10 digs the last time the two rosters met. She’s capable of going off for 20-plus digs as she has five times this year, and could be Cal’s secret weapon this time through.
Though the crimson and white have a weapon of their own, as a fifth-year outside hitter, Madelyn Robinson has been on a tear this season with 327 kills. Hoping to force more of her attack errors (106), Cal’s main focus should be slowing down Robinson.
Both Colorado and Utah swept Cal off its feet in earlier matchups this season. Fortunately for the blue and gold, those losses came on the road – potentially opening the door for a revenge tour back home.
Cal has the ability to hang with the best of teams. The majority of their defeats are close-scoring and are usually decided by a handful of points. Although the team’s season took a turn for the worse with a live rough patch of 12 straight losses, the fact that most of this Bears team will return for future years is encouraging.