No. 11 Cal Comes Back To Defeat No. 7 Stanford
PHOENIX – No. 11 California beach volleyball won the finale of the Pac-12 North Invitational as they defeated No. 7 Stanford in a come-from-behind victory on the campus of Grand Canyon University.
The Bears fell in their first match of the afternoon to No. 12 Arizona, but the win over Stanford was Cal's second ranked win of the season and 12th since the beginning of the 2019 season.
"It's always good to end the weekend with a win," interim head coach Derek Olson said. "Even though we went 1-3, and that's not what we wanted, but the fact that we can get out of here with a win over Stanford and carry that momentum into next weekend is a positive."
ARIZONA 4, CAL 1
The Bears grabbed a point on the top court as Mima Mirkovic and Caroline Schafer grabbed a victory for Cal. The duo was locked in a tight, 12-11, contest in the first set, but they went on a 9-3 run to end the set and claim the win. They carried that momentum to the second set as they started on a 6-0 run, punctuated by a Schafer block at the net. They held on and won the second set 21-13.
The second court was a battle. The Bears started the first set down 9-2, but they fought back and eventually tied the match at 16. Arizona scored the next three points, but Cal tied it back up after consecutive aces by Ainsley Radell. The Bears eventually fell 24-22 in the first set. The second set was a back-and-forth affair, but a decisive Radell kill secured the second set for the Bears at 21-19. The Bears held an 8-6 lead in the third set, but Arizona managed to go on a 6-0 run and secured the third set 15-9.
Despite the Bears' success at the top two courts, Cal fell on courts three, four and five in straight sets as their inexperience showed against Arizona. The Bears bottom three pairs featured four true freshman and sophomore Kate Bierly, who didn't play at all during the abbreviated 2020 season.
"It feels like a short season since we weren't able to have any practice in the fall," Olson said. "We have a lot of new pieces; I'm still getting to know the freshman and they're still getting to know each other. We're trying to find our identity as a fall. We've had a lot of success the last three years in slowly building our team up. But this team has to find its own identity. We're on the right path, but that's the challenge, figuring out who we are and trying to get the most out of the season."
CAL 3, STANFORD 2
The Bears bounced back from a disappointing first match vs. Arizona with a much better effort vs. No. 7 Stanford. Cal had to climb out of a hole as Stanford won the first match of the afternoon on court three.
The Bears tied the score on court two as Polo and Radell continued their strong play. They were able to win the first set 21-15, but fell behind in the second set by an 11-8 margin. However, they turned it on over the rest of the second set as they went on an 11-5 run and eventually won 21-18.
On the top court, Cal won a back-and-forth first set by a 22-20 margin. The Cal duo of Mirkovic and Schafer was able to carry that momentum into the second set as they jumped out to a 6-1 lead. They led throughout and were able to put away the Stanford pair of Charlie Ekstrom and Sunny Villapando with a Mirkovic ace to get to 20 followed by a well-placed shot form Schafer that found the sand and gave Cal the points.
Brooke Buchner and Ava Mann won their first set on court five, but they lost the next two sets to give Stanford the advantage heading to the final court.
Paired together for the first time this year on court four, Maya Gessner and Maddie Micheletti dropped the first set by a 21-18 margin. They regrouped in set two and won 21-16 to clinch a decisive final set. The Cardinal jumped out to a 5-0 and then a 7-3 lead in the first set, but the Bears bounced back going on a 12-6 run over the rest of the set, clinching the match as Stanford played the ball out of bounds.
"I told the team, 'if you can chip away at this lead, they are going to have all the pressure," Olson said. "Maya and Mick never counted themselves out; they stayed steady and stayed connected. They communicated well and made the plays down the stretch. I'm happy for Mick, she was pulled out of the lineup this weekend and had to play at the sixes. It wasn't her fault, we just have more defenders than we have blockers on the team. She has stayed ready for when we threw her back in. She's a senior and she's won big games in the past for us, but for her to come in off the bench and clinch it for us was amazing."
ARIZONA 4, CAL 1
#1 – Mima Mirkovic/Caroline Schafer (CAL) def. Alex Parkhurst/Alana Rennie (UA) – 21-14, 21-13
#2 – Sarah Blacker/Brooke Burling (UA) def. Ainsley Radell/Jordan Polo (CAL) – 24-22, 19-21, 15-9
#3 – Natalie Anselmo/Carly Lowry (UA) def. Alexia Inman/Grace Paulson (CAL) – 21-18, 21-11
#4 – Mady Noble/Dana Parker (UA) def. Brooke Buchner/Ava Mann (CAL) – 21-14, 21-17
#5 – Olivia Hallaran/Hope Shannon (UA) def. Kate Bierly/Maya Gessner (CAL)– 21-16, 21-18
Order of Finish – 3, 4, 1, 5, 2
CAL 3, STANFORD 2
#1 – Mima Mirkovic/Caroline Schafer (CAL) def. Charlie Ekstron/Sunny Vollapando (STAN) – 22-20, 21-17
#2 – Ainsley Radell/Jordan Polo (CAL) def. Xolani Hodel/Kate Reilly (STAN) – 21-15, 21-18
#3 – Maya Harvey/Maddi Kriz (STAN) def. Alexia Inman/Grace Paulson (CAL) – 21-10, 21-19
#4 – Maddie Micheletti/Maya Gessner (CAL) def. Maddie Dailey/Jordan McKinney (STAN) – 18-21, 21-16, 15-13
#5 – Emmy Sharp/Amelia Smith (STAN) def. Brooke Buchner/Ava Mann (CAL)– 18-21, 21-10, 15-11
Order of Finish – 3, 2, 1, 5, 4