This past weekend, Cal beach volleyball made its way to the treacherous territory of Palo Alto, where it participated in the Stanford Invite. This weekend truly tested Cal’s ability to withstand the nation’s most skilled teams.
To open up the weekend, the blue and gold dueled against Saint Mary’s. The Bears made quick work of the Gaels, winning 4-1. Saint Mary’s was unable to force any tiebreak, making for many swift matches.
The next match was No. 10 Stanford. The Bears came in riding the momentum from winning their last six matches, but a quick set of blows from the Cardinal changed Cal’s trajectory.
Perhaps surprisingly, the blue and gold were quickly shut down by the Cardinal. Cal was dealt a comprehensive defeat, 1-4.
This was the third time the highly competitive teams faced each other in the 2023 season, and prior to this matchup, Stanford had yet to win. But something clicked that Friday afternoon for Stanford: The Cardinal second, third and fourth pairs were able to notch straight-set wins, without a single tiebreak in sight.
After an opportunity to rest and assess the situation, the Bears returned Saturday morning ready to take on No. 7 Grand Canyon. Strong efforts from Cal were ultimately unsuccessful, as the Bears were only able to force two extremely tight tiebreaks en route to a loss.
No. 1 pair Sierra Caffo and Liz Waters-Leiga pushed to the very last second, barely losing a tiebreak 15-13. The same scenario unfolded for No. 3 pair Maya Gessner and Gia Fisher, who fell short by only two points in the decisive set.
These tie-breaking sets truly tipped the entire match — at face value, the game appeared to be a quick and easy 1-4 victory for Grand Canyon, but it was a hard-fought win.
It is still clear that Cal can go toe-to-toe with some of the best teams, and the team’s grit cannot be questioned.
Finishing off the weekend, the Bears faced Pacific. This matchup was rather one-sided: Cal swept the Tigers 5-0 in swift fashion, winning all of its matchups with large margins of victory.
As the season nears its end, Cal draws closer and closer to the Pac-12 Championship. The Bears will need to draw on their positives from this weekend if they hope to be successful in the postseason, as the Pac-12 is home to some of the best beach volleyball teams in the nation.