All-American Tarah Murrey finished the Cal volleyball team’s first set against No. 2 Washington with two kills and three errors for a -.071 hitting percentage.
By the end of the match on Friday night at Haas Pavilion, the senior outside hitter amassed 21 kills to power the No. 4 Bears to a 3-1 victory (25-20, 22-25, 25-18, 27-25).
After being frustrated early, the El Cerrito, Calif., native came up big for Cal (19-2, 9-2 in the Pac-12), especially in the incredibly tight fourth frame that featured 15 ties and six lead changes.
Murrey strung together pivotal back-to-back kills to give Cal a 21-19 edge in the frame and struck again to break a 22-all tie. She pummeled the ball down the middle to give the Bears their second match point. Two missed serves and a massive Cal block later, the Bears completed the upset.
“(Libero) Robin (Rostratter) was telling me, ‘Tarah, keep swinging. I’m going to cover you. Swing,’” Murrey said. “I was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to keep swinging, see the block, be smart and be ready to play.’”
Murrey’s .132 attack rate actually brought down the team’s average, but setter Elly Barrett ran a balanced attack that registered a .216 hitting percentage against the conference’s stingiest defense. A total of four Cal attackers logged double-digit kills.
Though the Huskies (15-3, 7-3) were billed as the Pac-12’s top defensive unit to enter the match, Cal currently holds that position after the weekend’s matches. Despite being out-blocked 13.5-12, the Bears held Washington to a meager .157 team attack rate.
Behind 26 digs from Rostratter, the Cal’s back row kept the team alive in several big rallies, allowing the team’s attackers to go to work. The squad totaled a staggering 94 digs in the four-set victory with Murrey chipping in 18.
“Robin and I were just like, ‘Gotta focus on the passes, get our middles up in transition and things will come,’” Murrey said. “The positives will come when we pass.”
The Bears could not maintain that energy on Saturday night against a lowly Washington State team.
Despite claiming a straight-set victory, Cal was thoroughly dissatisfied with its performance against the Cougars (11-9, 3-7). The Bears’ error count was high across the board: 15 attack errors, seven service errors and five serve-receive errors.
“We never really got going to how we can play,” Barrett said. “(Against Washington) we were really focused and on fire, but tonight it wasn’t there.”
With Cal leading 18-11 in the third frame, right side hitter Correy Johnson grazed a serve off the tape. The ball hit the forgiving net, dribbled over and found the floor.
That summed up the Bears’ night against the Cougars — not pretty, but Cal ultimately got the job done.
“We do not accept mediocrity,” Loerch said. “We lost a few points in there, kind of got down on ourselves. We need to snap out of that and we’re ready on Monday to fix those things.”