Cal volleyball has struggled to produce wins as of late. The team began the year with a record of 7-3, but just like the fall weather, things have turned overcast.
After a tough weekend of matches, the Bears move to 7-11 and remain winless in Pac-12 play. The team originally entered the state of Arizona aiming to end a six-game losing streak, but now finds itself even farther from success — losing both matches in the Sunset state.
Now losing eight games in a row, with all losses being intraconference, the blue and gold hold sole possession of last place in the Pac-12. With more conference play ahead, things aren’t looking too bright for Cal. The team’s latest results weren’t too promising, either.
The weekend affair began in Tempe, Arizona, where the Bears faced the Sun Devils.
On Friday night, a showdown took place where Cal gave Arizona State a run for its money. In what was a block party, freshman middle blockers Mikayla Hayden and Sophie Scott lived up to their position name and combined for nine blocks — contributing to the team’s 10-plus.
The Bears began the game struggling, dropping the first set 25-14. Overpowered by senior outside hitter, Iman Isanovic’s 18 kills and four blocks, Cal had to dig deep to give the fans a show. They team did just that, making the last two sets much more competitive, losing narrowly by scores of 25-21 and 31-29.
Junior middle blocker, Claire Jeter, played a decisive role for the Sun Devils, netting 8 blocks and 8 kills. Cal’s junior opposite, Lydia Grote continued her season’s successful play with 11 kills, three blocks and three aces of her own.
The blue and gold ultimately fell short of their end goal, but should be proud of their fight nonetheless.A rough stretch of games and a poor opening set can often be catalysts of surrender and willing defeat, but the Bears kept onward.
Hoping to make the trip to Arizona worthwhile, Cal then trekked to Tucson, Arizona, to meet the Wildcats.
It was expected that the University of Arizona would be an even more difficult matchup for the Bears, given its stronger record.
However, Cal’s Sunday contest with the host was almost a duplicate of its previous duel with the Sun Devils.
Like last, the Bears went down early, losing the first set 25-13. Junior outside hitter Jaelyn Hodge was putting the Bears away early with her skills, leading to her finish with 15 kills and four blocks.
However, the Bears held on. The usual trio of Hayden, Scott and Grote kept the blue and gold in the game, while junior outside hitter Leah Schmidt added in a complementary five kills, two aces and a block.
Before Cal could capitalize on its comeback efforts, Arizona’s fifth-year middle blocker, Zyonna Fellows, put the Bears back into hibernation. She posted a career-high 12 blocks, using her 6’4” frame to make life hard for the blue and gold.
The Bears were swept in Tucson, just as they were in Tempe. The tandem of defeats puts Cal’s streak of losses up to a daunting eight.
Cal’s record may show struggles, but there nevertheless remains silver linings to the team’s 2022 story.
For one, the team boasts a lot of youth. With Sydney Lilomaiava being the team’s only senior, the Bears as a group have the potential to build upon this rollercoaster of a season in future years.
There’s also a lot of volleyball left to be played. As of now, the blue and gold have 12 games left on their schedule. If Cal can string together some victories, it’ll slowly clean up its record.
The Bears can start fresh with some Southern California showdowns against USC and UCLA starting Friday at Haas Pavilion.