The No. 2 Cal volleyball team battered Arizona State and Arizona this weekend, but the Bears’ lineup took a beating.
In the first set of Friday’s 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 26-24) win over the Sun Devils, right side hitter Correy Johnson had to be helped from the floor after spraining her ankle.
Starting libero Robin Rostratter only saw action in the first two sets at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz. The helmet-donning junior collided with outside hitter Tarah Murrey and sustained a head injury.
Neither Rostratter nor Johnson played in Saturday’s 3-0 (27-25, 25-23, 27-25) thumping of the Wildcats at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
“We got so lucky last year, I don’t think anyone had any injuries,” sophomore Adrienne Gehan said. “It seems to be catching up with us.”
Gehan, who went down with an ankle injury on Sept. 16, made her return to game action this weekend. To her surprise, the outside hitter was asked to play as a defensive specialist for the first time in her career. Freshman Christina Higgins remained on the outside where she has played since Gehan went down.
Gehan has not yet regained her “volleyball legs,” according to coach Rich Feller. Nonetheless, she filled in nicely in the back row, contributing nine digs over four sets.
“It was really exciting, but I wasn’t fully expecting it,” Gehan said. “I have a new appreciation for back row players. It’s a lot more pressure when you’re responsible for one or two skills.”
While Gehan was playing out of position in the back row, freshman Lillian Schonewise took over for Johnson. Schonewise, a middle hitter, dazzled in her debut on the right side. The Papillion, Neb., native hit .333 with five kills and tallied four blocks against the Sun Devils (5-16, 1-11 in the Pac-12).
Playing a full three sets against the Wildcats (13-8, 5-7), the 6-foot-3 attacker tied teammate Shannon Hawari for a match-high 12 kills and led the squad with a blistering .526 hitting percentage.
“The offensive aspect on the right side is very similar to the middle,” Schonewise said. “We run a lot of plays behind the setter and slide approaches. The defense and the blocking is a lot different on the right side, but it was pretty easy to catch on.”
While the Bears (21-2, 11-2) didn’t drop a set this weekend with their new lineup, the frames came down to the wire. Arizona stormed out to a 9-1 lead to open the match, but Cal rallied back to tie at 20. The Bears fought off set point and stole the opening frame with a kill by Murrey and a block by setter Elly Barrett and Hawari.
The second stanza was tied 23-23 when Hawari gave the Bears set point. The middle hitter from Plano, Texas, put it away by combining with fellow Texan Barrett for another block. A back-and-forth third set swung the Bears’ way when consecutive Arizona attack errors clinched the frame, 27-25, for Cal’s straight-set win.
“I think a lot of it is guts and determination from the players that are out there,” Feller said of his team pulling out the sets late. “It’s a pretty resilient team.”