As midterms start to wind down for students, competition for the Cal beach volleyball team is only getting tougher.
Last weekend, the Bears went home with a split record at the Pac-12 North Tournament. After losing to No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 USC, they managed wins against Washington and No. 20 Stanford.
This weekend the Bears will face three highly ranked foes, each for the first time this season. Their first stop in their trip to Southern California will be at the campus of No. 9 Long Beach State on Friday morning.
The 49ers hold a record of 17-6 so far this season, not too far off from the Bears’ 16-5 record. Their losses have come against USC, No. 3 Florida State, No. 5 Pepperdine, No. 6 Hawaii and No. 10 Stetson.
The last time Cal faced off with Long Beach was two years ago, ending in a 5-0 victory for the 49ers.
In comparing the two teams’ abilities this season, Hawaii could be a good indicator. Long Beach’s loss to the Rainbow Wahine was a decisive 0-5, while Cal managed to take two sets off the dominant team during its own matchup, losing 2-3.
On the other hand, Long Beach was recently able to beat No. 7 Cal Poly, 4-1, showing that it is capable of pulling upset wins.
At this point in the season, both of these teams are fighting for a spot in the NCAA national championship tournament, and whichever team wins this matchup will be a step closer than the other.
The next day, Cal will participate in the Pepperdine Invitational in Malibu. On Saturday morning, the Bears will first face Cal Poly. The Mustangs tote a respectable record of 18-7 with losses against UCLA, Florida State, No. 4 LSU, Pepperdine, Long Beach State, No. 13 Arizona and No. 14 Loyola Marymount.
Despite their seventh-place ranking, they have fallen to teams from across the board. The fact that they have beaten teams such as Hawaii and lost to teams such as Arizona shows that their performance is unpredictable.
If the Bears hit hard from the start, they may be able to destabilize their opponent and take themselves one step closer to NCAA qualification.
Pepperdine will be up next for the Bears later that day. At 16-6, the Waves have lost three times to UCLA and once each to LSU, Florida State and USC. Their most impressive wins demonstrate their abilities, however, with a recent redemptive victory against USC and two wins against Hawaii this season.
Pepperdine will be the toughest of the three opponents, but all of these games are vital opportunities for the Bears to further their campaign for a coveted spot in the national championship.