After a successful three-game sweep at last weekend’s Army Tournament in West Point, New York, the Bears look to bring this momentum into upcoming matchups with Portland State and Southern Utah.
Cal volleyball is set to be back in Haas this weekend to co-host its next preseason tournament with Saint Mary’s. The Bears will take on Portland State on Friday at 7 p.m. and Southern Utah on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Even with recent victories, maintaining a winning streak through the tournament will be no easy feat.
Portland State volleyball will be a tough matchup, as the Vikings performed well at their most recent tournament against solid competition. Although missing All-Big Sky first team selections senior setter Madison Friebel and senior outside hitter Makayla Lewis, Portland States managed back-to-back sweeps of CSU Fullerton and San Diego State.
The Vikings have debuted some new faces in the lineup, from freshmen to previous bench players. The new faces put on a show, recording their best serving performance in years against CSU Fullerton with 16 aces — led by junior outside hitter Sophia Meyers.
Portland State’s offense has benefited from these additions — from senior outside hitter Gabby Hollins leading with 17 kills against San Diego State, to junior setter Ella Hartford and sophomore setter VaiLin Tagaloa stepping up in Friebel’s absence to lead the team in assists.
The Bears will need to utilize their defensive strength in order to combat the serve-receive and blocking pressure that the Vikings bring to the table. However, with senior libero Tara DeSa’s recent crowning as MVP of the Army Tournament for an impressive 40 digs and 15 assists, the Bears should not have too much trouble closing the holes.
Cal’s offense will need to face off against Vikings’ freshman libero Paige Stepaniuk, who earned the recent Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week honor for a 4.60 average digs per set in the tournament.
Junior starting setter Annalea Maeder maintains confidence in her team.
“I think the team as a whole and me as well are very excited and looking forward to this weekend, and for the first official game this season to be at home,” Maeder said. “It’s definitely gonna be a test against Portland State and Southern Utah because we have two back-to-back games Friday and Saturday, but I think we can show the depth of our roster and have everyone contribute. There’s nothing quite like a home-opener right?”
Maeder’s positivity makes sense, as Cal’s offense has been killing it — literally and figuratively.
While senior outside hitter Sam Taumoepeau has been a constant source of kills and aces, so have freshmen outside hitters Maggie Li, who was recently named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, and Ashley Li led the team in kills to contribute to the team’s impressive hitting averages of .250 and .288 in the tournament. Additionally, sophomore middle blocker Mikayla Hayden led the team in blocks with an average 1.2 per set, while Maeder averaged 9.2 assists per set.
“What makes me so happy about being the setter on this team at the moment is that I feel 100% confident at any time to go to literally any player on the court,” Maeder said. “All my hitters are hot, they demand the ball and they want to score.”
Although Southern Utah did not give its best showing at the recent Bakersfield Tournament, the Thunderbirds will also pose some challenges for the Bears — with players such as junior setter Teniyah Leuluai, who was named to the All-Tournament team with an impressive 35 assists. Additionally, Cal’s defense will need to watch out for outside hitter Andrea Spasojevic, who led Southern Utah with 15 kills and 13 digs. “If we can keep up the fight and the grit that we had last weekend, we’ll be very successful,” Maeder said.