Around the Pac-12
There were no real surprises around the Pac-12 this weekend, which is reflected in the national polls. Five of the six of the Pac-12 squads held their positions in the coaches’ poll, including four in the top five.
Despite winning both weekend tilts against Arizona State and Arizona, Stanford dropped a place in the rankings from sixth to seventh. The Cardinal flopped places with Nebraska, which pulled out a gritty 3-2 win over Michigan State and then convincingly swept then-No. 17 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Oregon, despite suffering its first conference loss, maintained its slot at No. 15. The Ducks faced their first test in Seattle taking on No. 3 Washington, where the Huskies became the first team to sweep coach Jim Moore’s squad this season. The Ducks didn’t go down as quietly as the score might indicate — Oregon pushed Washington into extra points before falling, 28-26.
The Huskies’ stalwart defense was critical to notching the win as it held the Ducks to a meager .189 attack rate. As a result, middle hitter Bianca Rowland was awarded Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season. Rowland registered eight blocks against Oregon and seven against Oregon State the next night. The senior currently averages 1.45 blocks per set, trailing only Stanford’s Carly Wopat in the Pac-12, who averages 1.71.
While Wopat is a defensive force, her offensive play turned heads this weekend, earning her Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors. In the Cardinal’s two wins over Arizona State and Arizona this weekend, Wopat averaged .502 attack rate and posted 26 kills. With the selection, the sophomore middle blocker became the first Pac-12 volleyball player to garner both Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week honors.
The Bears were represented in conference honors this week, with the Freshman of the Week nod going to Christina Higgins. Though she began the season competing for a spot on the right side, Higgins converted to an outside hitter when Adrienne Gehan went down with an ankle injury a few weeks ago. Higgins looked very comfortable in the position, setting a new career high with 16 kills on Saturday against Arizona State.
Freshman defensive specialist Marlee Davis was held out of the starting lineup on Saturday against Arizona State and attended the match in street clothes. After getting pegged in the head by a spike during the Arizona game on Friday, Davis was kept out as a precautionary measure, and sophomore Lauren Loerch made her first career start in replacing her. The team is hopeful that Davis will be cleared to play this weekend.
“We have limited choices on the bench right now,” coach Rich Feller said. “Lauren did a great job.”
Passing Woes Continue
The Bears continued to struggle with their passing, despite picking up two wins. Though it wasn’t as dramatically exposed as it had been when Cal got swept by the LA schools, the Bears struggled to stay in system and were never really able to completely dominate sets — especially on Saturday against Arizona State.
“We’re struggling as a passing team,” Feller said. “Some of that we just need to keep working on, others is just not making the right mental and physical moves. It’s just about getting lots of reps.”