Well, it finally happened.
After a 21-set winning streak, the Cal women’s volleyball team was handed its first loss over the weekend, losing to Kansas State on Saturday afternoon at the Hilton Garden Inn Invitational at Haas Pavilion. The No. 23 Bears (7-1) fell to the Wildcats (9-1) in five sets.
The Wildcats are no strangers to nationally ranked teams, regularly facing powerhouses such as Texas and other Big 12 teams throughout their season.
The first set went on without a hitch, with the Bears winning, 25-16. But the second set proved more difficult, as the teams battled point for point, and Kansas State eventually overpowered the Bears and took the set, 25-22. It marked the first lost set of the season, and it seemed to go only downhill from there.
“We were a little flat,” said head coach Rich Feller. “We never really got into sync. And we made way too many errors, which was a little uncharacteristic. Kansas State is a great team, and you can’t give them any points.”
Feller is referring to the 27 errors the Bears made throughout the sets, with 10 in the second set alone.
“I think people started to press a little bit,” Feller said. “Someone made an error, so someone else tried to do something more extraordinary to make up for it, and that just created another error.”
Kansas State took the third set as well, winning 25-22, and the Bears were able to force the game to a fifth set by winning the fourth set, 25-19. But Cal could not hold on, and the Wildcats walked away with a 15-9 win in the fifth, serving the Bears their first loss of the season.
Despite the loss, the Bears were able to showcase the depth of their bench. With the usual starting opposite hitter Christina Higgins sitting out as a precaution due to a minor leg injury sustained in the game the night before, junior Lindsey Parrott was thrust into the spotlight. And shine she did, recording 14 kills and 4 blocks in her starting debut.
“She was one of our highlights, really,” Feller said. “She had one of the highest hitting percentages, swung at a lot of balls, made very few errors. I thought she did a great job. I give her a lot of kudos.”
Senior Adrienne Gehan walked away with 18 kills, and sophomore Lara Vukasovic added to the Bears’ total with 14 of her own. But the errors Cal made and the ability of the Wildcats to create opportunities through those errors overshadowed the Bears’ offensive strikes.
“Just focusing on our own side, we made a lot of hitting and serving errors that were free points for the other team,” Parrott said. “If we remove all the easy errors we know we can control, such as serving and hitting in the court, then we could have taken games two and three.”
Now the Bears have a few days off in order to regroup and focus on cutting down their errors for their next game, coming up Thursday against UC Davis.
“We’re going to learn from this,” Feller said. “We’re a very good team. We’re not yet a great team. We’ve had a great preseason so far. This is a little blip.”
Alicia Fong covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]