No. 12 ranked Stanford beach volleyball (16-11, 7-4) very nearly knocked off their rivals, No. 13 Cal (21-6, 4-4) at the Big Spike in Berkeley. Despite falling to an 0-2 start during Saturday’s competition and quickly losing two matches, the team battled back to tie the match before narrowly losing the clinching game at the No. 1 spot.
The comeback began at the No. 3 spot, when senior Catherine Raquel and freshman Kate Formico took down the Berkeley duo of Bryce Bark and Madison Dueck. Raquel and Formico lost the first set 21-19, and things looked grim for the Cardinal, but the duo rallied back to take the next set 21-17 and then a dominating 15-9 tiebreaker.
“I’m happy about our team’s response to being down 0-2, with Cat and Kate getting us back in the hunt for the dual with a hard fought win at the three,” said head coach Andrew Fuller.
The team’s 0-2 hole was caused by losses at the No. 4 and 5 spots, as junior Payton Chang and sophomore Caitlin Keefe fell in two 21-16 sets at the 4. Sophomore Shannon Richardson and freshman Blake Sharp dropped as well as the No. 5 group, in three total sets.
Stanford’s No. 2 pairing, junior Courtney Bowen and freshman Sunny Villapando, continued their recent dominant performances and tied the match up for the Cardinal at 2-2. The duo has now won six straight matches together, and Saturday’s victory was won in straight sets.
The final outcome of the game came down to the performance of the No. 1 pairing, sophomore Morgan Hentz and freshman Amelia Smith. The usually productive duo pushed their first set to a deuce before falling 22-20, and then fell quickly in the second set, dropping the clinching game for the Cardinal.
This weekend, Stanford will host the Pac-12 beach volleyball championships from April 26th-28th. The Cardinal will compete and seek to claim the Pac-12 crown with consistent play and quality teamwork.
Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada “at” stanford.edu