As California approaches its regular season's end, a visit to the Pacific Northwest is next on the docket.
The Bears (14-13, 6-10 Pac-12) make a final push for a post season appearance over the next four games, all on the road, and hope their competitive play pulls in a few upsets in the next two weeks to make the case.
Cal will have a first go at it this weekend first against No. 20 Washington (17-9, 9-7 Pac-12) in Seattle and continuing on to face No. 18 Washington State (19-7, 10-6 Pac-12) in Pullman.
Friday's Bears-Huskies match-up is slated for a 7 p.m. (PT) start and will air on the Pac-12 Networks, while the game versus the Cougars is scheduled for Sunday at noon and will be streamed on the Pac-12.com.
After splitting the week, Cal hopes to regroup from a 3-0, yet closely-contested loss to Oregon on Saturday, and reproduce efforts similar to its 3-0, series sweep of Oregon State last Thursday.
The Bears have hit noteworthy benchmarks through head coach Jennifer Dorr
's first year, picking up the most overall wins since 2013 and their most conference sweeps and wins in the same timeline.
Cal's success has been largely due to consistent play in the middle by duo Preslie Anderson
and Lauren Forte
whose performances have made them top contenders in the league.
The Arizona natives both come in as some of the most efficient hitters in the Pac-12, with Anderson's .388 hitting percentage ranking second and Forte's .354 ranked sixth. Forte also owns the fourth-best blocks per set average in the conference with a 1.27.
Sophomore Mima Mirkovic
is coming off a week where she earned her 20th double-digit kill performance and 12th double-double of the season recording 17 kills against the Ducks, one shy of her career best and tallying 15 kills and 10 digs against Oregon State.
The Bears have played more consistently since the start of the conference season, which they started 0-5, but since Oct. 7 have knocked off three ranked opponents for the first time in a season since 2011, including a 3-1 win against a then 21st-ranked Washington State on Oct. 14 in Berkeley.
Cal looks for its first sweep of Wazzu since 2012 when the program's meet on Sunday, but will encounter a Washington team that has not lost to the Bears since the same year.
"We begin our toughest road stretch of the year as we compete against four ranked opponents over the next nine days," Dorr said. "Our team has talked about and prepared for these next two weeks for a while now, and we feel we are prepared athletically and academically to make the best of this schedule.
"Both UW and Wazzu play very well at home and will be great road tests for us," Dorr added. "Both have different styles of play which force our squad to play efficiently on our side of the net as well as be prepared tactically for their differing styles."
Scouting Washington State
- On four-game win streak, giving up just three sets in that stretch
- Kara Bajema leads with 370 kills, but also adds to the effort defensively contributing 256 digs, second most on the team
- Avie Niece leads at the net with 105 total blocks averaging 1.13 b/s and offering 136 kills on the season
- The Cougars have just one loss at home this season, coming on Nov. 2 against Arizona
- McKenna Woodford and Taylor Mims lead the effort with Woodford's 356 kills pacing the team while Mims is dangerous on both sides of the ball tallying 301 kills and 156 digs
- Outhit opponents 1366-1281, averaging .238 attack rate versus .190
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