Despite two wins this weekend, the No. 1 Cal volleyball team suffered its first major loss of the year.
As the Bears (13-0, 3-0 in the Pac-12) and Colorado (5-6, 0-3) neared the end of Friday’s second set, Cal’s outside hitter Adrienne Gehan dislocated her ankle coming down from a block attempt. The sophomore, who was hitting .444 for the match with four kills in the match, had to be helped from the court.
After Gehan’s departure, the Bears quickly took the next point on a Kat Brown block to seize the set en route to a 25-17, 26-24, 25-15 win over the Buffaloes at Haas Pavilion.
Gehan, a 6-foot-3 native of Dallas, Texas, returned to the court for Cal’s Saturday match against Utah, but came in on crutches with her left foot in a boot. According to coach Rich Feller, an MRI on Sunday would determine the extent of Gehan’s injury, but she did not break anything.
In Saturday’s straight set victory (25-9, 25-20, 26-24) over the Utes, Feller put freshman Christina Higgins in Gehan’s slot as the No. 2 outside hitter behind senior Tarah Murrey. Higgins had previously been seeing some time primarily on the right side.
“I’m trying not to be too nervous about it, just trying to play steady and keep a level head,” Higgins said. “Obviously (Gehan’s) irreplaceable as a player, but I’m really honored to be next in line.”
The Inglewood, Calif., product’s numbers were not stellar against Utah, which fell to 6-6 overall and 1-2 in the conference with the loss. Although she posted a meager .067 hitting percentage with four kills, but she showed flashes of brilliance.
Higgins notched back-to-back kills in the second set to force set point and then clinch the frame for the Bears. She easily blocked Utah’s senior middle hitter Danielle Killpack as Cal raced out to a 9-4 lead in the third set.
Overall, Feller was pleased with his freshman’s performance, especially considering her change in position.
“I thought she did great,” Feller said. “We need to set her a little different than we set the other ones, so Elly (Barrett) has to adapt to that and realize what situation she needs to get her the right set, and I think when that happens, Christina will be even more effective.
“She has to learn a little patience in attack, and make sure she can hit a few more shots, and hopefully that’ll come around in the next few weeks.”
In Gehan’s absence, Barrett’s other weapons made their presence felt, particularly in the first set. Murrey helped the Bears get off to a fast start with a blazing eight kills in the first set, a number that only two of the Utes’ attackers were able to top in three sets.
Murrey finished with a match-high 17 kills, while teammate Correy Johnson logged eight after sitting out most of Friday’s match with a sore hip.