On Friday, the Cal volleyball team (9-21, 3-17 Pac-12) entered its game against No. 1 USC (30-2, 18-2) looking not only to upset the best team in the nation, but to spoil the Trojans’ Senior Night. But the Bears would get nowhere close to accomplishing this, once again falling in three straight sets for the 14th time this season (25-11, 25-21, 25-19).
“I feel like we didn’t play with the same effort as we did in our last match,” said Cal head coach Rich Feller. “It’s too bad because this definitely wasn’t the way we wanted to go out.”
The Bears were led on offense by sophomore outside hitter Antzela Dempi, who was coming off a career-high 11-kill performance against Stanford. Dempi carried over her dominant play into Friday’s match, finishing with a team-high seven kills with a .286 hitting percentage.
But Cal’s best all-around performance of the night came from sophomore outside hitter Christine Alftin. Alftin not only ended the night with a total of six kills, but also led the defensive stand against the Trojans by finishing with a team-high seven digs. She tied with junior libero Maddy Kerr, who also ended the night with seven digs.
Redshirt senior Lillian Schonewise and senior Lara Vukasovic each played well in their final matches of their Cal careers, finishing with five kills a piece. Both of them fueled Cal throughout several points in the match, especially when it came to the second set.
This set was the closest the Bears got to tasting victory, however, because Cal was unable to score kills when it mattered. (25-21)
With the scored tied at 16-all, Cal was in a great position to take the second set. But USC senior outside hitter Samantha Bricio stepped up for the Trojans in the final home match of her career. She scored a total of three kills from this point on, more than enough to help USC take the set.
The Bears made it especially easy for the Trojans to win, due to the fact that they tallied a total of six attack errors in the entire second set.
Cal wasn’t able to find an answer the entire night for Bricio, who finished the match with a team-high 16 kills at a .469 hitting percentage. Sophomore opposite hitter Brittany Abercrombie and freshman outside hitter Alyse Ford also had an impressive night for the women of Troy. Both of them followed Bricio’s lead, finishing with eight kills a piece.
“It’s kind of disappointing that we ended our season with such a tough loss,” Schonewise said. “But we fought hard the whole year and still have some things to work on, which is good for the girls coming back in the spring.”
With a win over Cal, the Trojans solidified their reputation as the best team in the conference and the entire nation. The opposite was the case for the Bears, who once again failed to impress in their final match of the season.
“Hopefully there are a lot of lessons learned from this season, because our seniors deserved a much better finish than they got,” Feller said. “But I still couldn’t be more proud of the way they held their heads up.”
Alex Quintana covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]