A Cal volleyball season that remained in question through the fall into this winter will begin this weekend with the Bears visiting 22nd-ranked UCLA for matches on Friday and Sunday.
The Pac-12 postponed the entire fall schedule in the sport because of COVID-19 issues and announced a conference-only schedule on Tuesday — three days before the first matches.
“It’s both exciting and a little bit nerve-wracking to all of a sudden feel like this things went December and getting ready for a season and tomorrow we’re getting on a plane and we’re going to play some matches this weekend,” second-year coach Sam Crosson said.
Crosson talks further in the video above about how the Pac-12 schedule came together and gives a preview of UCLA’s team.
The Bears expected to return this season with three first-team All-Pac-12 players, but like so many other things in the COVID-19 era that promise will not be fulfilled.
The Cal team Crosson sends onto the floor at UCLA won't look anything what he once anticipated.
Two of the all-conference players have transferred. Unsure there would be a Pac-12 volleyball season, senior middle blocker Preslie Anderson moved on to Baylor and junior middle blocker Lauren Forte exited to Florida.
And senior outside hitter Mima Mirkovic who has started every match but one through her first three seasons and led the Bears in 2019 with 325 kills, has opted out of the indoor season. She intends to play beach volleyball in the spring.
Crosson addresses all three situations in the video below and stresses he had no issue with the decisions any of them made. He also talks about which of the young players on his roster — with six freshmen among 15 players — could emerge.
“We are extremely inexperienced when it comes to match time and court time. It really feels like we are starting anew and fresh,” Crosson said.
Cal posted a 20-10 record in 2019, its first 20-victory season since 2013. The Bears were 10-10 in Pac-12 matches, finishing seventh place in a conference that sent its top six teams to the NCAA tournament.
Crosson’s second team, stripped of its high-profile players, will rely on youth, including six freshmen.
The Bears face UCLA on Friday at 2 p.m. and again on Sunday at noon. The Bruins feature 2019 Pac-12 Player of the Year Mac May.
“We’re going to dive in the deep end this weekend with a very good UCLA squad,” Crosson said. “We’re going to find ourselves playing some very good teams and we’re going to learn a lot about ourselves pretty quickly.”
Cal opens its home schedule a week from now with matches on Friday, Jan. 29 and Sunday, Jan. 31 against 10th-ranked Utah.
The Bears are supposed to face two-time defending national champion Stanford in Berkeley on Feb. 13 and at Stanford on Feb. 15. But the third-ranked Cardinal already has been forced to cancel its first four matches, this weekend vs. USC and next week vs. Colorado, due to Santa Clara County health restrictions.
Crosson addresses the uncertainly with Stanford’s situation in the video below:
Stanford, 30-2 in 2019, has won three of the past four NCAA titles, boosting its all-time total to nine. This year’s NCAA tournament is set for April.
Here is Cal’s full schedule: