On Sunday at Oregon State (13-13, 3-11), the Cal volleyball team was leading two sets to one going into the fourth frame. But the team was in serious trouble.
The Bears had just dropped the third set, 26-24, and were tied with the Beavers, 15-15. Cal needed someone to step up.
Senior Shannon Hawari was that leader.
Behind two powerful kills and two stuff blocks from Hawari, the Bears scored six straight points en route to winning the set, 25-20.
Finally the Bears (13-11, 7-7) had emerged from a Pac-12 weekend of play with two wins with the 3-1 victory (25-21, 25-19, 24-26, 25-20).
“It was great for our confidence, especially with the tournament and the possibility of going there,” junior Adrienne Gehan said. “Coming off such a big win there was still pressure to play well and take care of another team.”
On Friday down the I-5 freeway in Eugene, Ore., the Bears recorded by far the most important win of their season, upsetting No. 2 Oregon 3-2.
The intense five-set affair left the Bears drained going into their matchup with the Beavers.
When the game against Oregon State began, Cal fell victim to a hangover. The squad came out slow, finding itself down 3-0 before it even blinked.
“For the most part, the Oregon State match was a slowly played match,” coach Rich Feller said. “Both teams were lethargic and there was no excuse for that. There were players that had impressive games Friday that didn’t show up Sunday.”
The Bears finally awoke from their stupor and tied the match at 6-6. Then, with the score at 20-17, freshman Nikki Gobar delivered four straight points off her serve to set up the 25-21 set victory.
The second set did not provide as much excitement, as the Bears cruised to a 25-19 victory. Cal seemed to be over its sluggish start and well on its way to finishing the weekend strong.
But then the third set left the Bears floundering for an answer.
The Beavers raced to a 18-12 edge, taking advantage of Cal’s ineffective passing.
Hawari, who normally relinquishes her serving duties to teammates, stepped in to try and calm things down. Four aces from the senior helped Cal to a 7-0 run to give the squad a 19-18 lead.
“We served really well today,” Gehan said. “It got Oregon State out of system and made them uncomfortable.”
At 24-24 in the third set, Oregon State was able to string together a block and a kill to cut into the Cal advantage.
In the fourth set, Cal knew it needed to squash the Oregon State momentum so they could escape Corvalis with the win.
At 15-15, Hawari came through with the blocks and kills to give Cal the 21-15 advantage. Then another senior, Correy Johnson, was able to cap the frame with back-to-back kills.
“Today was an absolutely must-win,” Feller said. “We let them in the door a little bit, but I have to give credit to our team for sticking with it and taking care of it in the fourth set.”