For the Cal volleyball team, there has been one constant theme throughout the year: inconsistency. This weekend was a perfect example of this, as the Bears pulled out a close victory against Colorado on Saturday at the Coors Events Center in Boulder.
The five set victory (23-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-11, 15-8) could not have come at a better time for Cal (7-5, 1-1 in the Pac-12). After losing two straight matches away from home against San Francisco and No. 6 Stanford, the Bears lost all the momentum from their four-game winning streak and could have dropped to the bottom of the division.
Senior Shannon Hawari and junior Adrienne Gehan had different ideas, though. Hawari set a career high with 17 kills to go along with eight blocks, and Gehan tied a career high with 21 kills en route the victory.
“You know, Shannon was really on fire throughout the whole match with her kills and blocking,” head coach Rich Feller said. “As a team, we finished on a high note and played how we should start playing.”
The end of the match certainly was a bright spot for Cal. One of the biggest turning points in the match was the substitution of senior opposite Correy Johnson. Johnson, who has competed in less than half of Cal’s matches due to injury, was substituted in after the third set and had a major impact with two kills, but more importantly, seven assists.
The last two sets showed a much different storyline than did the previous three. In the first three sets, the Buffs showed a great amount of resilience, never letting Cal take advantage of its leads, and taking a 2-1 set lead.
“This match was really the same thing we have done all season,” Feller said. “We started off weak, and it took us a few sets to figure it out and get into our rhythm.”
The Bears’ groove was partially thrown off by the play of the Buffs (11-3, 1-1). Colorado kept shifting around their alignment throughout the match, using their setter in different ways, but staying offensive and pushing the Bears back on their heels.
In addition, the Buffs entered their home match on fire, having won their previous seven matches, including a conference win against Utah. That, coupled with the high altitude of the stadium, made for a very difficult experience for the Bears. But they rose to the occasion.
“We knew what they would do, and they came out and caused a lot of problems and played very scrappy,” Feller said. “They were in the habit of winning, so they came in with confidence, swinging freely.”
Despite this, Cal came back strong and showed some resilience of its own, coming back after dropping two sets. Though the game was far from perfect, it gave Feller and his squad something to look to in Pac-12 play.
“What this means for us is that we can go into a place and pick ourselves up from our bootstrap,” Feller said. “It puts us back on track for the rest of the season.”
Karan Karia covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]