Cal’s Pac-12 Championship Run Ends With Loss To Stanford
LOS ANGELES – The fifth-seeded Cal beach volleyball team fell to Bay Area rival and fourth-seeded Stanford on Saturday at the Pac-12 Championship. It was the team's sixth meeting of the season and second meeting of the Pac-12 Championship, but Stanford was able to prevail by a 3-0 score at Mapes Beach on the campus of UCLA.
"I would say this has been the most competitive Pac-12 Tournament top to bottom since I've been a part of it," interim coach Derek Olson said. "Other teams besides USC and UCLA are getting better and better. That's evident with five teams ranked in the top 11. We knew matches against Arizona or Stanford were going to be a battle. I am proud of how hard they fought through all the adversity they faced this year. They came into this tournament and finished fourth, but the way they did it is what I was pleased with the most."
Stanford took the first match of the day on court four in straight sets. Emmy Sharp and Amelia Smith defeated Maddie Micheletti and Maya Gessner by a 21-15, 21-15 scoreline. The Stanford pair won over Cal for the second time this tournament.
Court two turned out to be the deciding battle in the dual as Stanford prevailed in a matchup that saw all three sets go into extra points. Tied at 19 in the first set, Radell scored two of the next three points on kills and then Polo secured the set for the Bears with a well-placed left-handed shot that found a corner. In the second set the Bears led 20-19 and had set point, but Stanford scored a point, then had consecutive aces by Maya Harvey as the ball rolled over the tape and hit the sand on both, securing the set and forcing a third. Radell tied the third set at 13 with an ace as the teams traded points. Stanford had a chance to win, but Radell and Polo saved the point as Radell knuckled the ball on the run into the sand. However, Stanford bounced back and won the set 18-16 to take a 2-0 lead.
Stanford had an opportunity to win the match on court one, but the Bears tandem of Mima Mirkovic and Caroline Schafer fought them off. Stanford won the first set 21-16 and had a chance to win the second set. The Cardinal led 19-17, but Mirkovic had a kill down the line then Schafer tied the match by ending a long rally by going over on two. Mirkovic scored the next three Cal points on vicious attacks as she gave the Bears a 22-21 lead. Schafer ended the set with a stuff at the net to give Cal the set victory. Before the top court could finish the third set, the match ended on court three.
Stanford won on the third court as Maddi Kriz and Kate Reilly secured the match and the dual for the Cardinal. The pair won 21-19, 21-12 over Alexia Inman and Ava Mann. The match ended Cal's Pac-12 Championship run after two victories yesterday. The Bears finished the tournament 2-2, defeating No. 8 ranked and third-seeded Arizona and eighth-seed Oregon yesterday.
"We had eight girls make their debut this year, and we started four true freshmen the entire way," Olson said. "I didn't know what to expect this year, especially since we didn't have a fall. But I could tell right away the freshman were up for it. I knew we had strong teams at the top with our returners. I was pleasantly surprised and we were right there in a lot of close matches. We had a really tough schedule; I wanted to challenge this group and give them an opportunity to make NCAA's. We can come away with a lot of valuable lessons. We're going to regroup and we're going to be in the thick of things for years to come."
Cal finished the year with a 16-13 record, the Bears had five wins over ranked teams and four over top-10 teams during the 2021 season. This class of seniors finished their careers with 71 wins and have been instrumental in establishing Cal as a powerhouse in the beach volleyball landscape. Cal has been ranked in the top 12 in every poll since April 23, 2018, a span of 1104 straight days.
"Honestly, I include myself to be in this class of seniors," Olson said. "For me, it's a little special cause I came in with them and rode the same wave with them. They came in as loud freshmen and haven't looked back in four years. They established themselves early on as high-level D1 beach volleyball athletes. Credit to them because consistency is hard and to maintain that high level of success throughout their careers, not too many programs can say that. All you can ask is that they leave the program better than they found it, and they definitely have. They're also leaving the program in great hands; the future is bright for us."
#9 STANFORD 3, #11 CAL 0
#1 – Xolani Hodel/Sunny Villapando (STAN) vs. Mima Mirkovic/Caroline Schafer (CAL) – 21-16, 21-23, 10-5 unfinished
#2 –Charlie Ekstrom/ Maya Harvey (STAN) def. Ainsley Radell/Jordan Polo (CAL) – 20-22, 22-20, 18-16
#3 – Kate Reilly/Maddi Kriz (STAN) def. Alexia Inman/Ava Mann (CAL) – 21-19, 21-12
#4 – Emmy Sharp/Amelia Smith (STAN) def. Maddie Micheletti/Maya Gessner (CAL) – 21-15, 21-15
#5 – Maddie Dailey/Jordan McKinney (STAN) vs. Brooke Buchner/Grace Paulson (CAL) – 13-9 unfinished
Order of Finish – 4, 2, 3