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Cal in NCAA tourney: [UPDATED] Beach Volleyball advances; W. Tennis out
It's survive and advance time!
Cal Beach Volleyball defeats Long Beach State 3-2 for the program’s first win on the NCAA Championships stage.
Cal got straight-set wins on court 3 (Gessner/Fisher) and court 2 (Ridell/Delgado), but lost on court 5 and then 1. It all came down to the court 4 matchup where Lexi McKeown and Ella Dreibholz won the first set convincingly (21-14) but lost a close second set (19-21).
McKeown and Dreibholz were able to take the third set 15-8 to send Cal to the quarterfinal round.
Cal will take on UCLA at 7 AM PT on Saturday (ESPNU/WatchESPN with the individual streams of each court).
Cal Women’s Tennis drops a 4-1 decision to San Diego, marking the second national championship knockout competition where the Golden Bears are eliminated by the Toreros.
San Diego took the doubles point despite a Cal win in No.1 doubles. They won on court 1 (in three sets) and court 2 (in straight sets) while Cal won on court 6 (in straight sets). Both courts 3 and 4 were just starting a deciding third set when the 3rd set went to San Diego in court 5 to seal the dual win. Freshman Berta Passola had a chance to go ahead in that tight 3rd set but could not convert either of the break points before falling 5-7.
It’s playoff time for numerous Cal teams (for more information here). Win or go home!
On Friday, May 5th, Cal Beach Volleyball and Cal Women’s Tennis will look to make Alabama and Texas, respectively, Bear Territories. Coincidentally, both Cal teams will be battling fellow teams from the great state of California.
NCAA Beach Volleyball Championships
No.8 Cal (28-9) vs. No.9 Long Beach State (24-14)
When: Friday, May 5th, 8 AM PT
Where: Gulf Shores, Alabama
TV/Stream: ESPNU (WatchESPN)
Cal Beach Volleyball is back to Gulf Shores, Alabama for the second straight year for the NCAA Championships (it will eventually move to Huntington Beach, CA in 2025 and 2026). Last year's trip saw the Golden Bears losing a close first-round contest to then No.6 LSU, where a deciding 3rd set for the No.5 pairs would decide the 3-2 dual. The tall blonde who ended Cal's season from the other side of the net last year is now on this side of the net. Sierra Caffo, a transfer from LSU, has teamed with fellow transfer from Florida State (who also got NCAA Championships experience), Liz Waters-Leiga, as Cal's current No.1 pair. The pair has played together the whole season, rising from being the No.4 pair at the beginning of the season.
Caffo (a sophomore) and Waters-Leiga (a junior) had a strong Pac-12 Tournament in helping Cal to a runner-up finish. They were named to the Pac-12 All-Tournament Team along with Cal's No.2 pair of seniors Ainsley Radell and Ashley Delgado. The current top pair at Cal also earned the national honor as AVCA Second Team All-Americans.
The Radell/Delgado partnership dates back to late last year when they also finished the year as the No.2 pair and earned a win over LSU at the NCAA Championship. Head coach Meagan Owusu has deftly leveled up her squad via the transfer portal by giving student-athletes from the state of California a chance to return home. Many of these student-athletes who ended up on the East Coast were by the design of the NCAA to not have this sport being dominated by Californian teams, but USC and UCLA are the only champions thus far nonetheless. Delgado started her collegiate career at Tulane before retiring medically in 2019. She was cleared to play again only in 2022 and immediately became a mainstay in the Cal lineup. Radell, who has spent her entire career at Cal, on the other hand, is currently the second most successful beach player in Cal history with 81 victories and counting. She could potentially exceed Grace Campbell (2016-19)'s Cal record of 83, although these win records will likely be rewritten quickly in the next few years.
Expecting Cal to use the same lineup as the Pac-12 Tournament, Maya Gessner and Gia Fisher should be the No.3 pair, Lexi McKeown and Ella Dreibholz would be found at No.4, and Brooke Buchner and Alex Young-Gomez will round out the Cal lineup at No.5.
Cal edged Long Beach State all the way back on March 6th at a neutral site of Malibu. The lineups and matchups should be different this time around.
No. 12 Cal 3, No. 14 Long Beach State 2
1. Maya Gessner/Ella Dreibholz (Cal) def. Mari Molina/Christine Deroos (LBSU) - 21-19, 16-21, 15-7
2. Ainsley Radell/Ashley Delgado (Cal) def. Sydney Stevens/Julia Westby (LBSU) - 21-19, 21-16
3. Malia Gementera/Taylor Hagenah (LBSU) def. Sierra Caffo/Liz Waters-Leiga (Cal) - 13-21, 21-16, 15-12
4. Alex Young-Gomez/Lexi Mckeown (Cal) def. Haley Carrington/Holly Jackson (LBSU) - 21-17, 20-22, 19-17
5. Maggie Walters/Natalie Glenn (LBSU) def. Brooke Buchner/Natalie Martin (Cal) - 21-16, 21-19
Exh. Ava Mann/Gia Fisher (Cal) def. Kate Stoughtong/Savannah Lyons (LBSU) - 21-16, 21-18
Order of finish: 2, 4, 5, 1*, 3
Long Beach State (24-14) has only one win over a top-10 opponent but is well battle-tested like Cal. They do have a 5-match winning streak from winning the Big West tournament which includes a win over then No.8 Hawaii (who dropped to an 11-seed for this tournament).
LBSU likely lineup:
We might have rematches of the same competitors at the top two spots of the lineup as back in March. Otherwise, there is the expected lineup shuffle that all teams experience between the start and the end of a long season.
NCAA expanded the Beach Volleyball Championship to 17 teams in 2023 (from 12 last year, which allowed Cal to qualify for the first time in program history). They also eliminated the previous double-elimination format for the top-8 (the first handful of NCAA Championships were limited to only 8 teams with a geographical limitation of at least 3 teams per coast).
You can find the full bracket below.
Should the Bears advance, they will likely face a rematch of the Pac-12 Tournament final against UCLA in the quarterfinal round. That potential match is scheduled for Saturday at 7 AM PT. A win there would mean a semifinal match soon after that at 11 AM PT also on Saturday, May 6th. The NCAA Championship final will take place on Sunday (May 7th) morning at 9 AM PT.
Based on social media, it would appear that all of the teams, including Cal, have arrived at Gulf Shores since at least Tuesday to adjust to the East Coast time. Bears should not be at a disadvantage due to an early start (if you fear a Cal Football at Maryland situation).
The 28 wins thus far this season is already a program-best for Cal Beach Volleyball. Given the parity that has been seen in collegiate beach volleyball this year where even top-seed UCLA has 3 losses, including one to Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament, why not Cal running the table and get four more wins?
NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships
No.26 Cal (12-9) vs. No.30 San Diego (12-10)
When: Friday, May 5th, 9 AM PT
Where: Austin, Texas
Stream: Texas Tennis Center Live Video
Ranked in the top-16 at the start of the year, a short-handed Cal team was upset in the second round of the ITA Kickoff when they played without Valentina Ivanov. They will have a chance to avenge that loss in Berkeley today against the same San Diego Toreros.
San Diego (2-1) 4, No. 11 California (2-1) 1
Jan. 28, 2023, in Berkeley, Calif.
Hellman Tennis Complex
1. No. 53 Kailey Evans/Elizabeth Goldsmith (USD) def. No. 15 Jessica Alsola/Katja Wiersholm (Cal), 6-3
2. Haley Giavara/Erin Richardson (Cal) vs. Solymar Colling/Abigail Desiatnikov (USD) 5-4 Unfinished
3. Claudia De Las Heras/Jordyn McBride (USD) def. Makenna Thiel/Hannah Viller Moeller (Cal), 6-3*
Order of Finish – 1, 3*
*Clinched the doubles point
1. No. 29 Solymar Colling (USD) def. Haley Giavara (Cal), 6-4, 7-6(5)^
2. No. 16 Jessica Alsola (Cal) def. Claudia De Las Heras (USD), 6-3, 6-1
3. Katja Wiersholm (Cal) vs. Abigail Desiatnikov (USD), 6-2, 5-5 Unfinished
4. Elizabeth Goldsmith (USD) def. No. 93 Hannah Viller Moeller (Cal), 6-1, 6-1
5. Berta Passola Folch (Cal) vs. Jordyn McBride (USD), 7-6(3), 3-6, 2-1 Unfinished
6. No. 41 Kailey Evans (USD) def. Erin Richardson (Cal), 6-3, 6-2
Order of Finish – 2, 4, 6, 1^
^Clinched the overall match
Expect the same lineup for Cal as what was used at the Pac-12 tournament.
Since a 2-5 stretch including the first weekend of Pac-12 play without Ivanov, Cal has gotten better results since, rising back up in the rankings.
Other than freshman Berta Passola Folch, who arrived on campus only this semester, the rest of the Cal lineup, even sophomores Jessica Alsola and Katja Wiersholm, should be very experienced with this dual format. The same squad (but with the graduated Julia Rosenqvist instead of Berta Passola Folch) made a run to the NCAA Round of 16 just last year.
Should Cal advance past San Diego, a much tougher opponent in 9th-ranked Texas (21-4) will likely be next tomorrow.