Questions were raised of how head coach Rich Feller and his squad would respond against No. 16 Arizona after his squad was brutally defeated at the hands of the Oregon schools at home last weekend. Those questions were answered when Arizona sent the Bears packing early in three sets on the heels of a Wildcat offensive barrage.
Five matches into conference play, Cal (8-7 overall, 0-5 Pac-12) stayed winless in the Pac-12 after Arizona (15-2, 4-1) dismantled the Bears, 25-19, 25-19, 25-11, at McKale Center.
“We’re not very satisfied with how we executed,” Feller said. “Obviously the results weren’t anything we had anticipated. We’re pretty disappointed in the final outcome.”
Arizona came in after suffering its second loss of the season in an upset to Colorado a match prior. The Wildcats realized that they needed an improved offensive performance after suffering a .150 showing in Boulder that led to the wrong end of a sweep. They responded to their sluggish play against Colorado with a strong .327 showing against Cal.
Hitting .327 put Arizona in a good position to beat the Bears, and against as bad of an offensive team as Cal, it was hard not to win. And unlike the Wildcats, who followed up a less-than-formidable offensive performance with a phenomenal one, Cal came out and continued to struggle.
The Bears relented shortly after taking a 7-6 lead to start the game, with Arizona using five straight points to take the advantage away from Cal, 11-7. The Wildcats then surged out to an 18-11 lead off the hot hitting from outside hitters Madi Kingdon and Ashley Harris, who both tallied four kills apiece in the first set. The Wildcats never looked back after that, finishing Cal off in the first set 25-19.
The second set again featured a hot-hitting Arizona. With control of the baseline, the Wildcats kept the ball moving and set themselves up for kills and open opportunities. They easily took their second set of the match off of .342 shooting to go along with a whopping 17 kills.
Despite trailing 2-0, Cal came out flatter than before out of the half. Despite the third set being do-or-die for the Bears, Arizona left no doubt of its dominance, scoring the first 11 points of the third set. Arizona would never let the deficit get closer than nine points at 18-9, and the Wildcats finished off Cal and the sweep on a 7-2 run.
“We’re not putting the ball away when we need to,” Feller said. “We’re hitting the ball into the block or into the defense instead of the open spaces.”
Still without a Pac-12 victory, Feller has several problems to address, the priority being offense. In addition to no player recording double-digit assists, the entire team only recorded eight kills in the entire third set with a -.059 hitting percentage.
“When it came to executing on our own side of the ball, we failed,” Feller said. “We didn’t execute our own game plan which was setting ourselves up for kills and getting people into transition plays. Those were areas on our side of the net that we failed.”
Winston Cho covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @winstonscho