Cal stays perfect, wins Hilton Garden Inn Classic

Emma Lantos
Emma Lantos

Though its play on the court was often far from flawless, the No. 1 Cal volleyball team remained perfect this weekend, tallying four more wins.

The Bears (10-0) won all four of their matches without dropping a set at the Hilton Garden Inn Classic at Haas Pavilion. Senior Tarah Murrey was named tournament MVP, while Kat Brown and Shannon Hawari also garnered all-tournament honors. Cal now finishes its preseason without having dropped a set.

“I’m pretty happy,” coach Rich Feller said. “We challenged ourselves in some different ways. We played pretty tough when a few teams pushed us to the limit.”

In its opening match on Friday, Cal opened things up with a 3-0 (25-14, 25-9, 26-24) victory over the Univeristy of Texas-Arlington (UTA).

After cruising through the first two sets, in which the Bears’ offense tallied hitting percentages of .350 and .483, it appeared that Cal was poised to see similar results in set three.

The Bears, however, came back out completely flat, allowing the Mavericks to hang around, and even grab a 24-22 lead. But UTA couldn’t return Murrey’s subsequent attack and got blocked in the middle to tie the match at 24.

Freshman Christina Higgins and junior Kat Brown combined for another block to give Cal match point. Murrey’s emphatic cross-court spike ended the match and secured the win for the Bears.

“We need to hold ourselves to a higher expectation and meet that level every match,” Murrey said. “The more we play, the more we can flow with each other and learn from our mistakes.”

Setter Elly Barrett posted a career-high 40 assists, while libero Robin Rostratter led the defense with 10 digs.

That same sluggish play carried over into Cal’s night game against Nevada, even though the team took the match, 3-0 (26-24, 25-18, 25-12).

After getting pushed into extra points in the first set, the Bears’ defense came out of hibernation and held the Wolfpack to a hitting percentage well under .100 in the final two frames.

On offense, outside hitter Adrienne Gehan paced the Bears with 13 kills and hit .325 for the match. Junior Correy Johnson, after sitting out the morning game against Texas Arlington due to a sore hip, tallied 10 kills with an impressive .533 hitting average. The Winter Park, Fla., native also notched six blocks, one of which was solo.

On Saturday morning, after going up two sets to none on Sacramento State, the Bears played some of the best volleyball they’ve played in 2011. The squad opened with a 13-0 run, and closed the door on the Hornets to take the set and the match (25-16, 25-16, 25-12). Murrey led the way for Cal with a season-high 21 kills.

That strong play carried over into Saturday night, when the Bears tallied a 3-0 win (25-14, 25-14, 25-18) over Georgetown, becoming the only team of the tournament to go undefeated. Hawari posted her strongest match of the weekend, notching eight kills in 11 attempts with no errors for a .727 average. The Plano, Texas, native led a balanced Cal attack that boasted four players who hit over .500.

“Tonight was the culmination of the most consistent play throughout the match,” Feller said. “That’s good to say at the end of the tournament.”