The Cal volleyball team should feel fortuitous that its upcoming matchup against No. 8 Washington is at Haas Pavillion.
Despite its top-10 ranking, the Huskies can attribute their success to their home advantage. Of its four conference losses, three came away from home.
And with the return of veteran outside hitter junior Adrienne Gehan from injury, the Bears come into Wednesday’s game at 7 p.m. with some much needed depth.
“Adrienne gives us the ability to substitute.” head coach Rich Feller said. “We can change things up whether its front row or back row; we can spread the offense around.”
With Gehan back in the starting rotation, Feller can substitute freshmen outside hitters Lara Vukasovic and Nikki Gombar to throw off the opponent’s defense.
Gehan’s effect shined through last weekend when the unranked Bears went up north to topple No. 2 Oregon in five sets. If the Bears can play dominant — recording a whopping 36 percent in kills — like they did against the Ducks, then the Huskies are in for a treat.
Not only does Gehan provide some much needed experience for a young squad like Cal, she also puts up big numbers. Coming back from injury, the veteran racked 15 kills, seven digs, and four blocks against the second best team in the nation.
And after Monday’s film session on Washington, the Bears felt confident they could avenge their previous 3-0 loss to the Huskies.
“It looks like they really have not changed that much, but I feel like we as a team have made progress since then,” said senior middle hitter Shannon Hawari.
On Oct. 21 at Seattle, Washington’s pair of outside hitters in sophomores Krista Vanstant and Nelson Kaleigh dominated the Bears with 21 kills combined. Kaleigh was a nightmare to defend for the Bears with her .429 scoring percentage that game.
For Cal, this killer offense will be hard to stop on Wednesday, particularly because Washington plays with three hitters up front.
“That (three hitter offense) is hard to defend because although we have three blockers, they know what they’re doing and we’re just trying to guess,” Feller said. “With three hitters, it’s much tougher to (put up a clean block).”
It is no surprise that the Huskies are second in the Pac-12 with a .272 hitting percentage per set. And with a majority of its front line standing well over six feet tall, it is also no surprise that Washington is first in blocks per set with 3.44.
However, the Huskies are likely tired after their close win against Utah on Sunday. Trailing 0-2, Washington had to win three consecutive games to take the win against the unranked Utes. Although Cal also played on Sunday, the Bears had an easier tilt against Oregon State.
While a win against unranked Oregon State edges the Bears one step closer to an NCAA tournament bid, an upset win against top-10 Washington would do wonders for Feller’s up and coming squad.
“A win would give us another injection of confidence finishing off the Pac-12,” Feller said.
Andrew Davis covers volleyball. [email protected]