The Cal volleyball team has had the same postgame talk over and over. After every loss, they preach to one another that things must change, things must get better.
“We are still having the same conversations about work ethic and discipline,” senior Kat Brown said.
However, the words seem to have fallen on deaf ears. No change has been made, and with only eight games left in the season, time is running out.
Coming off another split weekend with one win and one loss, the Bears (11-11, 5-7) have decided that it is time to stop talking and finally start speaking with their play.
Cal travels to Eugene, Ore., to play Oregon (20-1, 11-1) Friday night, an opportunity for the Bears to finally turn their words into action.
In the first meeting against the No. 2 Ducks at home on Oct. 3, the Bears lost 3-1. Although the one-set loss seemed like only a hiccup for Oregon, the small victory showed something more for Cal.
In the contest, Cal lost starting junior Adrienne Gehan to a knee injury and was forced to play true freshman Lara Vukasovic. The Bears then came out and showed some resilience in stealing the third set, 25-15.
A month later, Gehan is finally back to pre-injury form, and Cal will benefit from her return. Gehan leads the team with 189 kills this season and will certainly play a role this weekend. .
Cal has yet to sweep two Pac-12 opponents in one weekend during the 2012 campaign, always emerging with one loss and sometimes two.
“We can’t afford a 1-1 weekend,” Hawari said. “I want to leave this weekend feeling we left everything out on the floor.”
It will take a desperate effort for the Bears to pull off the upset against Oregon, a team with a lethal offense. The Ducks are second in the conference with a .294 hit percentage, in large part due to an offense that encourages misdirection and fast play.
“We need to focus on the hitters in our zone,” Gehan said. “We need to work on our eyework so we see which hitters are coming into our zone and not getting caught up in the ‘show’ that is the Oregon offense.”
Cal will look to slow down Oregon’s attack, led by its setter Lauren Plum, who leads the nation with 12.99 assists per set. Plum’s ability to trick the front three of her opponents has opened up hitters like Alaina Bergsma.
Cal will need to key in on their defensive assignments if they are going to have any success. To help their defense, the Bears will try and use their offense to put Oregon back on its heels.
“Anything to get them out of system will benefit us because then they can’t run their supersonic balls all around the court,” Gehan said.
With many members of the team finally healed, Cal expects to win its game against Oregon State on Sunday. But it would love to finally put together that 2-0 weekend with the huge upset against the Ducks.
“One win would be great this weekend,” Hawari said. “Two wins would be awesome.”
Austin Crochetiere covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]