The Cal women’s volleyball team entered last weekend’s Kansas State Tournament with one goal in mind: to rebound from the disappointing finish at the Molten Classic one week earlier. It was at this tournament that the Bears handed over the Molten Classic championship after falling in three straight sets to Seattle University. Unfortunately for Cal, the competition at the Kansas State Tournament was just too tough, as the Bears ended the night with an overall tournament record of 1-2.
“We have to get away from allowing the previous play to affect the next play, and that seemed to happen multiple times this tournament,” said Cal head coach Rich Feller.
The one highlight of the night for the Bears came in their first match against UNLV, when they pulled out all the stops to come from behind and win in five sets. Cal senior middle-blocker Lara Vukasovic led the team to victory against the Rebels — an extremely tough feat, considering she was battling the flu all night long. Vukasovic finished the match with a total of 16 kills and four blocks, leading the team in each of these categories. Senior outside hitter Nikki Gombar led the Bears on the defensive side, as she finished with a team-high 21 digs in the match. Juniors Maddy Kerr and Alyssa Jensen both followed close behind, finishing with a total of 17 digs apiece. Still, the storyline of the match was Vukasovic and her ability to battle through the side effects of the flu.
“For her to come out and battle through illness and play great for five sets was really an impressive display,” Feller said.
Unfortunately for the Bears, it was all downhill from there, as they lost their next match by winning only one of four sets. There were still some great individual performances displayed by Cal, however, especially when it came to Kerr. She once again displayed her defensive brilliance by finishing the match with 20 digs. Senior Lillian Schonewise led the offensive attack for the Bears, ending that match with a team-high 19 kills and a .484 hitting percentage.
But this still wasn’t enough to beat the Wildcats, who charged back in both the second and third sets after falling behind. This set up Kansas State for a match victory in the fourth set, defeating the Bears in the last set, 18-25.
“We played hard, there’s no doubt, but we just didn’t execute, and it really showed in our scores,” Kerr said.
The Bears finished the Kansas State Tournament by once again struggling and losing in their third match, this time against Green Bay. Freshman outside hitter Belen Castillo and Schonewise led the offense for Cal, each finishing with nine kills apiece.
Despite their efforts, the Bears were unable to hold off the Phoenix, which beat Cal in three straight sets.
There was definitely one positive for the Bears at the end of night: Schonewise was named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 3.17 kills per set at a .295 hitting percentage. But overall, the Kansas State Tournament was nothing short of a disappointment for Cal.
“We need to start developing a tough-spirited I’m-not-going-to-lose mentality to really improve,” Feller said.
Alex Quintana covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]