Despite picking up their 5th consecutive loss on Wednesday afternoon, California Golden Bears Volleyball (20-9, 10-9 in Pac-12) got plenty to be positive about in a near upset on the road of No.9 Washington Huskies. Bears got star outside hitter Mima Mirkovic back for the first time since she hurt her ankle against UCLA (the start of the losing streak). Even with Mirkovic (originally planned to possibly just play the backrow) clearly not at 100%, the team was playing confidently. Bears also got Savannah Rennie back and contributing despite her playing with a heavy brace to compensate for a torn ACL.
Rennie just continues her incredible story by playing effectively on Wednesday. Neither a rare liver disease that requires transplant, cancer, or a torn ACL can stop the redshirt senior.
Dear ,— NCAA Volleyball (@NCAAVolleyball) November 16, 2019
Without you, I would not have made it back on the court in three months after a liver transplant. I would not have beaten cancer and I would not have torn my ACL to return to the court in the same season.
Sav#NCAAVB | @CalVolleyball pic.twitter.com/xt9BC3QKtP
Bears jumped out to a big 2-0 lead, behind some crazy good defense and tough service, and had a decent size set 4 lead before falling in 5 sets. For a team that’s possibly on the bubble for the NCAA selection (Cal should finish with a RPI in the low 40’s - their RPI is expected to improve in this final week just for playing No.9 Washington and No.3 Stanford), it was potentially a big opportunity loss. Nonetheless, it was a great sight just to see the team being competitive for the first time in three weeks.
If you’re a glass half-full person, you would see Cal’s Friday Big Spike rematch at the Farm as another golden opportunity for them to put the rest of the college volleyball world on notice with a chance to upset the Pac-12 winner. If you’re more of a typical Old Blue, you would fret about Cal possibly being screwed over on selection day after losing 6 straight to close the regular season despite a fantastic 17-1 start to the season and all the positives in head coach Sam Crosson’s first year at the helm of the program.
It’s questionable whether the selection committee actually looks at these final matches that closely, but Cal winning a set or two (at least) on Friday afternoon would show clearly that they belong.
For all the talks about this Cal team being “ahead of schedule”, the Bears have depended heavily on their senior class - outside hitter Maddie Haynes, opposite Bailee Huizenga, libero Emma Smith, outside hitter/middle blocker Savannah Rennie are all major contributors to this team’s early season success. They all deserve to be a part of the first Cal squad to make it back to the NCAA postseason since 2013.
Stanford (23-4, 17-2) only has two Pac-12 losses - a very early one to Washington (they only play each other once, just like Cal and UW) and an uncharacteristic straight set loss to UCLA. The Cardinal were vulnerable for part of conference play in the middle when they had their superstar Kathryn Plummer out for weeks. Plummer is now back and effective (assuming healthy) for their postseason preparation.
The NCAA postseason will start next weekend. The NCAA selection show will be on Sunday, December 1st.
Bears clearly have more to play for on Friday to ensure that they can rest easy before Selection Sunday. Maybe that kind of intensity is enough to upset Stanford. We shall see.
California Golden Bears at Stanford Cardinal
Where: Maples Pavilion (Stanford, CA)
When: 3pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Network