Cal volleyball off to 0-4 start in Pac-12 play

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Cesar Ruiz/Staff

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After two weeks, the Bears remain winless in the Pac-12.

The Cal volleyball team lost to both Oregon State (12-3 overall, 2-2 Pac-12) and Oregon this weekend. After a dismal performance Friday that resulted in an Oregon State sweep at Haas Pavilion, Cal (8-6, 0-4) looked to Sunday as a chance for redemption — this time against a ranked opponent. But despite a slightly better performance than the Bears had against the Beavers, Cal fell to the No. 11 Ducks (13-1, 3-1) in three sets of 25-19, 25-21 and 25-21.

The usual team leaders were on display for Cal, but they didn’t seem to have as much of an impact as they normally do, proven with the Bears’ .200 team hitting percentage.

In fact, most of Cal’s statistics seemed to be lacking, with senior outside hitter Christina Higgins, who leads the team in kills and recently joined the 1,000 kills club, only recording nine kills for the game. Sophomore setter Alyssa Jensen only had 27 assists, while sophomore libero Maddy Kerr added 15 digs to her stats.

Cal did seem to have spurts of positive performances, but the Ducks’ .371 hitting percentage made sure that any rallies the Bears started didn’t gain too much momentum. The lack of hitting on Cal’s side can be attributed to the Bears’ inability to convert the defensive stops they had into points.

“This was a better team (than Oregon State), and I thought we executed a little better,” said Cal head coach Rich Feller. “Our defense was much better. But the good play got negated sometimes by the lack of execution, and that’s the disappointing part — you make a great dig, you get a set, and you can’t put the ball away.”

The fluctuation in the Bears’ performance might be credited to the lack of experience the overall team has playing together. With so many new faces on the Cal team, it seems that a lack of communication is still evident on the court.

“We need to identify what we do well and just continue to build on them,” Kerr said. “(The lack of experience is) definitely not an excuse, but the Pac-12 is a really hard conference, so it’s hard to make adjustments playing against the best teams in the country. So I think (the inexperience) is definitely exposed.”

The most positive thing the Bears can take away from this past weekend’s losses is the ever-present depth of the Cal bench. Freshman outside hitter Christine Alftin continues to put up good numbers for the Bears, and freshman outside hitter Antzela Dempi saw her first real play time, earning a few kills of her own.

Despite Cal still searching for its first conference win, the upside is the knowledge that if they work out the kinks in their system, they have a chance to compete with some of the top teams in the nation, as proven in their five-set loss to No. 4 Washington last week.

“We need to know how to control our own energy,” Kerr said. “Staying consistent with that is going to be really important, and we’ve definitely proven that we can do it. We’re going to keep working hard in practice, we’re going to win some games, and we’re going to get better. We’re not going anywhere.”

Alicia Fong covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]