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Cal Wins Pac-12/WCC Challenge

Apr 18, 2021

STANFORD – No. 12 California beach volleyball won Sunday's opener vs. Saint Mary's (CA), 4-1, to advance to the championship match of the Pac-12/WCC Challenge later on Sunday. In the final, the Bears got revenge from yesterday's defeat to the Cardinal, by winning 4-1 on Stanford's home court to claim the title. The Bears finished the weekend with three victories, including wins over No. 10 Stanford and No. 11 Pepperdine.
"We've had pairs here and there get hot for a set or two," interim head coach Derek Olson said. "I thought that today was the first day where all five pairs played well all day. For both duals, we had a really good day from the top pair to the exhibition."  
#12 CAL 4, SAINT MARY'S (CA) 1
Cal jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the first flight of action as the Bears claimed wins on court two and court four. That helped the Bears carry the momentum into the second flight as Cal won its seventh straight meeting vs. Saint Mary's (CA).
Maya Gessner and Maddie Micheletti moved to 3-1 since they were partnered together last weekend. Gessner closed the first set with a big swing that found the sand. The duo also took a big lead in the second set, but gave away a couple points at the end to make the score appear closer than it was. Micheletti finished the match as she went over on two and found the back corner of the court with a lofted shot to earn the win on court four.
Jordan Polo and Ainsley Radell were dominant on court two, especially in the second set. After winning 21-18 in the first set, the Bears jumped out to a 9-2 lead on their way to a 21-9 victory in the second set.
The Bears showcased talent and drive on court five as they were able to win a 21-12, 21-12 matchup vs. the Gaels. The freshman duo of Ava Mann and Brooke Buchner showed composure that belies their experience. With Mann serving, they scored the final four points of the match as Buchner put the game and the dual away with a kill.  
The Bears also claimed a win on the top court as Mima Mirkovic and Caroline Schafer secured the fourth point for the Bears. Mirkovic ended the first set with a nicely placed shot to find the back corner, to end the set at 21-18. In the second set, Schafer was imposing at the net, scoring the 19th and 20th points for the Bears with blocks as Cal won 21-14.

"Despite having a couple of ranked teams here, we didn't allow ourselves to overlook Saint Mary's," Olson said. "We knew they were good because we played them earlier this year and they gave us everything we could handle at their place. Our team did a good job of staying focused throughout a really long, hot day."

Saint Mary's was able to win in straight sets on court three as none of the matches ended up going to a third set. The 4-1 win for the Bears meant that Cal earned the second seed in the tournament and sent them to the Championship game for a rematch with Stanford.
#12 CAL 4, #10 STANFORD 1
The two Bay Area rivals faced off for the fourth time this year and second time this weekend, but the Bears were able to bounce back from yesterday's defeat to win 4-1 and win the championship match of the Pac-12/WCC Challenge.
After falling to Stanford on court two yesterday, Polo and Radell bounced back to earn the first pairs win of the afternoon for Cal. Polo ended a closely contested first set with a fierce hit down the line to give Cal a 21-19 victory. In set two, the score was knotted at 16 as neither team could gain more than a two-point advantage when Radell fired a jump serve between the Stanford defenders for an ace. That helped Cal score the final six points of the match, capped by another Radell ace for the winning point as the Bears won 21-16 in the second.
On court four, Micheletti and Gessner battled as neither team could gain much of an advantage. The first set was tied at 20, but Stanford scored two straight to earn the win. It was a similar story in the second set, as Cal came back from 18-16 down to take a 19-18 lead, but Stanford scored the next three to win 21-19.
The score was tied at one heading to the second flight, but the Bears won the first set on all three courts to give themselves a commanding advantage in the dual. On court five, the duo of Buchner and Mann won the first set 21-18. In the second set, Cal took a 13-8 heading into the technical timeout as Buchner ended a long rally with a kill for the Bears. She then finished off the dual with a well-placed cut shot.
On the top court, Mirkovic and Schafer claimed a straight set win 21-13, 21-15, as they finished the weekend 4-0 as a duo with three wins over ranked teams. After rolling in the first set, they jumped out to a 14-7 advantage in the second set at the technical timeout, propelling them to another victory and clinching the match.
The closest match came on court three as Stanford subbed in Kylee Matheson to the pair after Stanford lost to the Bears yesterday. The two teams split the first two sets with Cal winning the first set 21-17 and Stanford winning the second 21-15. That set up a decisive third set and the Bears came out hungry. They took an immediate lead as Alexia Inman had an ace to make the score 6-1. Grace Paulson followed with a kill. Cal grew the lead to 12-3 in the third set, and even though Stanford rallied for a couple of points, the Bears won the third set 15-8.
"I think the threes getting a win yesterday was big for their confidence," Olson said. "Even in the losses on courts two and five, we figured some things out that helped us out today. We learned from our mistakes yesterday and really translated that into results today."
The Bears and Cardinal have now split their four matchups this year. Cal returns to Stanford for the final regular season tournament of the year next weekend. The Bears will play Grand Canyon at 9 a.m. on Saturday. They will take on Loyola Marymount at 11 a.m. and San Jose State at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
#12 CAL 4, SAINT MARY'S (CA) 1
#1 – Mima Mirkovic/Caroline Schafer (CAL) def. Chandler Cowell/Elena Baka (SMC) – 21-18, 21-14
#2 – Ainsley Radell/Jordan Polo (CAL) def. Crash Parker/Hawley Harker (SMC) – 21-18, 21-9
#3 – Jasmine Suarez/Sienna Young (SMC) def. Alexia Inman/Grace Paulson (CAL) – 21-16, 21-10
#4 – Maddie Micheletti/Maya Gessner (CAL) def. Morgan Kendrick/Boo Laird (SMC) – 21-12, 21-18
#5 – Brooke Buchner/Ava Mann (CAL) def. Makenna Joyce/Selbie Christensen (SMC) –  21-12, 21-12
Order of Finish – 4, 2, 3, 5, 1
#12 CAL 4, #10 STANFORD 1
#1 – Mima Mirkovic/Caroline Schafer (CAL) def. Charlie Ekstron/Kate Reilly (STAN) – 21-13, 21-15
#2 – Ainsley Radell/Jordan Polo (CAL) def. Xolani Hodel/Sunny Vollapando (STAN) – 21-19, 21-16
#3 – Alexia Inman/Grace Paulson (CAL) def. Kylee Matheson/Maddi Kriz (STAN) – 21-17, 15-21, 15-8
#4 – Emmy Sharp/Amelia Smith (STAN) def. Maddie Micheletti/Maya Gessner (CAL) – 22-20, 21-19
#5 – Brooke Buchner/Ava Mann (CAL) def. Maddie Dailey/Jordan McKinney (STAN) – 21-18, 21-14
Order of Finish – 2, 4, 5, 1, 3