Despite their ongoing struggles, the Bears did not finish their season as the last-place team in the Pac-12.
The Cal volleyball team’s season came to an end with mixed emotions after earning its second conference win with a sweep against Washington State on Wednesday night but disappointment after the Bears suffered a loss to No. 1 Stanford on Friday afternoon at Haas Pavilion.
On paper, the matchup between Cal and Washington State was the most evenly matched game for the Bears this season, with both teams struggling to get wins in the tough Pac-12.
The ongoing struggles for Cal this season are due in part to the Bears’ inability to bounce back after falling behind. Historically, Cal would fall apart after the other team took the lead, especially as the set grew closer to match point. Callous errors served as the Bears’ downfall in some pretty close games earlier in the season. But against the Cougars, Cal was able to remedy that, and despite trailing at some point in all three sets, the Bears battled back and eventually took the lead and ultimately the match.
But the Bears have struggled all season with finishing matches strongly, and it was clear that the issue was not resolved going into Friday’s game after Cal fell behind in all three sets and could not fight its way back. The Bears were swept by the Cardinal 25-15, 25-19, 25-15, closing out the 2014 season for Cal.
“The main thing tonight was to play as hard as we could, don’t let little things get us down, keep the communication levels high and finish strong,” said Cal head coach Rich Feller. “We wanted to make Stanford earn points, and, I’m sorry to say, we didn’t do most of those things.”
Early in the first set, the Bears started out strong, matching the top team in the nation point for point until Cal was eventually bogged down by errors and mishits, which led to Stanford pulling further and further ahead.
The second and third sets started much like the first set did, with Cal and Stanford going back-and-forth earning points when the Bears started to fall apart, and the Cardinal capitalized, earning a .424 hitting percentage in the third set alone, compared to Cal’s .034.
Cal recorded 24 hitting errors for the match, and combined with a .094 hitting percentage average, the Bears’ final match ended similarly to most of the season: in disappointment.
“We didn’t have a good season, but to finish the way we did was even more disappointing in that we couldn’t just kind of pull it back up a little bit,” Feller said. “I’m not saying we could have beat Stanford tonight, but (we could have) at least played harder. There weren’t a lot of little victories.”
For the first time in 12 years, Cal will not be making an appearance in the NCAA tournament. Friday also marked the last game as a Bear for seniors Christina Higgins and Marlee Davis. Higgins finished her season with a team-high 11 kills and ranking at ninth in Cal history in kills with a total of 1,291 in her career. Since starting her career as a Bear, Davis has been riddled with injuries, and this season was no exception, but she managed finish her career with 534 digs.
“I can’t thank them enough for their four years of service to Cal and for all the work they’ve put in,” Feller said of the two seniors.
Alicia Fong covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]