UCLA delivers Cal’s first home loss

Going into the No. 2 Cal volleyball team’s match with No. 6 UCLA, senior Tarah Murrey talked about the drive necessary to come away with a victory.

“When we’re in those ruts that happen naturally in matches, is there going to be a collective burst of energy where we actually make a change?” Murrey said. “Sometimes we can be just a little too-even-keeled.”

On Friday night, the answer to Murrey’s question was a resounding “no,” as the Bears fell, 3-1 (25-17, 20-25, 25-17, 25-16) to the Bruins at Haas Pavilion. Both sides made several incredible recoveries to keep long rallies alive, but Cal couldn’t seem to turn them into points.

Coach Rich Feller tried to shake things up with a shocking substitution in the second frame. Trailing 12-9 in the set and 1-0 in the match, Feller relieved setter Elly Barrett after missing a dig, one of a series of errors in her rough night. Freshman Lindsey Parrott guided the offense smoothly for the remainder of the set, Cal’s lone victory.

But that change couldn’t sustain the listless Bears (21-3, 11-3 in the Pac-12).  The Bruins (19-2, 12-2) tied up the third frame at 11 to kick off a 5-1 run. After a crafty dump by Parrott to narrow the score, 17-14, UCLA outside hitter Tabi Love caught fire, laying down three straight kills to put Cal out of reach. Love torched the Bears for seven kills in the third set alone, helping UCLA to an overall .268 attack rate in the match.

The Bears’ offense couldn’t seem to get going, hitting a mere .154. Freshman Christina Higgins led the squad with 13 kills and Murrey tacked on 10 kills, but it simply wasn’t enough.

Despite facing elimination, the Bears couldn’t muster up much of a fight down the stretch in the fourth set. After taking the first point, Cal never led again. Consecutive kills by outside hitter Christina Higgins pulled the Bears within two, 18-16, forcing a UCLA timeout. Those were the last points Cal would tally as UCLA cruised with seven straight points to claim the match.

With their first home loss of the season, the Bears find themselves a game out of first place in the Pac-12. On Saturday night at 7 p.m., Cal takes on USC (17-4, 12-2), which was swept by Stanford on Friday night.