After trumping Stanford, Bears look to avoid letdown against Colorado

Christopher McDermut/File
Sophomore outside hitter Adrienne Gehan (5) logged 11 kills against Stanford on Tuesday.

After a momentous 3-1 victory against No. 2 Stanford on Tuesday night, the No. 1 Cal volleyball team wasted no time preparing for its next match.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” senior outside hitter Tarah Murrey said. “But I said, ‘We’re going to celebrate for no more than an hour, and even that’s pushing it.’

“We were able to see our weaknesses and what we need to improve on.”

Coach Rich Feller’s squad may have been among the few people in Haas Pavilion that were acutely aware of their weaknesses in such a dominant showing. They’ll get a chance to top Tuesday’s performance on Friday night at Haas Pavilion when the Bears square off against Colorado (5-4, 0-1 in the Pac-12) at 7 p.m.

In particular, Cal (11-0, 1-0) will look to focus on its side of the net from the first serve. Murrey said she felt the team played “like individuals” instead of a cohesive team in its first-set loss to Stanford, but the Bears more than rectified that mentality by sweeping the subsequent three sets.

However, with such an emotional win, there is always concern about a letdown in the next match, especially against a lesser opponent.

“That’s the million-dollar question, really,” Feller said. “We’ve got to know that the target is on our back all year. We’ve got to know that we don’t win anything by just showing up in a Cal jersey.”

Still, the Buffaloes – picked to finish 11th in the Pac-12 — won’t test the Bears like Stanford did.

While Cal entertained the Cardinal on Tuesday, Utah smacked around Colorado to take their conference opener, 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-21). The Buffaloes posted an astounding 25 hitting errors in their first three Pac-12 sets. By comparison, the Bears logged 17 errors in four sets against Stanford, a number they weren’t happy with.

“Overall, I expected a higher level of performance,” Colorado coach Liz Kritza said. “(My players) are deeply disappointed, and that can fuel a fire for marked improvement and the energy level we need.”

While this is likely one of the Bears’ easiest conference weekends, it is assuredly the most difficult for the Buffaloes and the Utes (6-4, 1-0), who must face Cal and Stanford on consecutive nights. Utah comes to Haas Pavilion on Saturday at 7 p.m.

This weekend may present an opportunity for Feller to go to his rather deep bench. The 13th-year coach went with his typical rotation of attackers and back row players against Stanford, but professed his confidence in his bench to jump in if called upon to enter the Big Spike match.

It would not be surprising to see freshmen middle hitter Lillian Schonewise and right side hitter Christina Higgins get into the mix over the course of this weekend. Both have impressed in their preseason play, with Schonewise looking particularly comfortable on slide plays to the right and Higgins with swings from both sides of the court.

Even as the Bears close their eight-day, seven-game stretch at Haas Pavilion against lower-end teams, Feller expects top play from all their competitors.

“I think this team is mature enough to understand that,” Feller said. “Once we get on the court, the competitive juices will start flowing.”