Press Release courtesy of Cal Athletics
The No. 16 Cal beach volleyball team will put its 11-match winning streak to the test this weekend at the ultra-competitive Pac-12 South Tournament in Santa Monica. The Bears, who haven’t lost since a season-opening setback to Saint Mary’s on Feb. 24, will meet four nationally ranked teams at Ocean Park Beach on Saturday and Sunday. Included on the weekend schedule are duals against No. 2 UCLA, No. 4 USC, No. 11 Arizona and No. 19 Washington. Cal has played one nationally ranked opponent so far this season and rolled past No. 18 Tulane 5-0 at the Stanford Tournament on Mar. 10.
The Bears were itching for the chance to play Saint Mary’s again last weekend after the Gaels defeated Cal in its season-opener. The Bears hadn’t lost since, and they made sure that win streak continued with a 4-1 victory over Saint Mary’s on Friday at the Clark Kerr Sand Courts. With an 11-1 record, that now means Cal has defeated every opponent it has faced so far this season.
Not only are the Bears on an 11-dual winning streak, they have been steamrolling the competition in most cases. Cal has won seven of the 11 matches by a 5-0 score and has dropped just four matches total during that span. Also, in the 55 matches played during the streak, Cal has dropped just 13 total sets.
Since head coach Meagan Owusu shuffled her pairs to begin the Stanford Tournament on Mar. 9, three duos have gone undefeated – No. 2 Jessica Gaffney-Iya Lindahl, No. 4 Caroline Schafer-Mia Merino and No. 5 Grace Campbell-Maddie Micheletti are each 8-0 during that span. In fact, Schafer-Merino and Campbell-Micheletti have won 10 in a row as they formed new pairs before Cal’s home opener against Santa Clara on Mar. 1.
FRESHMEN MAKE IMPACT
The Bears have four freshmen in their regular playing rotation and they have all already made their impact on the program. The all-freshmen pair of Mima Mirkovic and Alexia Inman have been dominant so far, going 11-1 while playing the past eight duals as the team’s No. 1 pair. Freshman Caroline Schafer is 11-1, having gone 10-0 with partner Mia Merino on the No. 4 pair and 1-1 with fellow freshman Maddie Micheletti, also at No. 4. Micheletti, meanwhile, is also 11-1, having gone 10-0 at No. 5 playing with junior Grace Campbell.
MIRKOVIC BRINGS INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS TO CAL
Before freshman Mima Mirkovic even played a point for the Bears, she was already an accomplished beach volleyball player. Mirkovic won back-to-back bronze medals as the FIVB World Championships in each of the past two years, taking third at the Under-19 championships in 2016 and repeating the feat last year at the Under-21 tournament.
The Bears won the Newmark Award for having the highest cumulative team GPA of any Cal athletic team for 2016-17 (3.396). Cal had four student-athletes earn Pac-12 All-Academic recognition last season, including a second consecutive first team nod for senior Teya Neff. Senior Bryce Bark earned honorable mention for the second straight season, and junior Grace Campbell earned the same honor as well. The Bears have had nine All-Academic selections during the first two years the Pac-12 has sponsored beach volleyball.
ABOUT NO. 4 USC
• Trojans already have more losses this season than previous three years combined
• Abril Bustamante-Tina Graudina was CollegeBeachVB.com Pair of the Week on 3/13
• USC has won the past two NCAA Championships
ABOUT NO. 19 WASHINGTON
• Has a win over No. 20 Loyola Marymount and narrow loss to No. 10 Arizona
• No. 1 pair is Jordan Anderson and Kimmy Gardiner
• Defeated Cal in Contender’s Bracket of last year’s Pac-12 Championships
ABOUT NO. 2 UCLA
• Bruins already have six victories over top-10 opponents
• Twins Megan and Nicole McNamara is the reigning Pac-12 Pair of the Week
• Handed No. 1 Pepperdine one of its two losses this season
ABOUT NO. 11 ARIZONA
• All three of Arizona’s losses have come against top-10 opponents
• Natalie Anselmo-Olivia Macdonald form Wildcats’ No. 1 pair
• Defeated Cal in the first round of last year’s Pac-12 Championships