Cal senior Kat Brown could not stand to see her team squander away an opportunity to upset No. 5 Washington on Wednesday night.
Following the battle with the Huskies, Brown’s expression said it all. She would not let Cal (14-12, 8-8) lay an egg against last-place Washington State (12-16, 2-14) on Thursday night at Haas Pavilion.
She didn’t disappoint.
The senior middle blocker set a new career high in blocks with 12. Brown’s performance not only left her 12 blocks short of the all-time Cal career record — it propelled the Bears to the 3-1 (25-18, 23-25, 25-18, 25-23) victory over the Cougars.
“I was really upset after we lost Wednesday night,” Brown said. “I came in knowing we had to win.”
Brown had a strong first frame, leading the team with four kills while also contributing on three block attempts.
Despite Brown’s play, the first set was won primarily on the fact that Washington State shot itself in the foot and committed eight errors.
At 8-7, Cal went on a 4-0 run with every point coming off an attack error by a Cougar. Brown played a role in intimidating the Cougar offense en route to a 25-18 set win.
The Cougars began the second set with a 9-3 run, leaving the Bears stunned.
Slowly, the Bears clawed their way back into contention, pulling within one at 21-20. The Bears were able to survive one set point, only to fall, 25-23, on their own serve and thus head into the break tied 1-1.
“We dropped the second set because they outworked us,” Feller said. “We shouldn’t have dropped that set.”
To begin the third set, Cal decided to work the left side, feeding sophomore Christina Higgins multiple opportunities. Higgins cashed in on four attempts in the first 13 points.
At 14-13, the squads embarked on a rally that lasted for more than a minute. As both teams tried to get that last kill, the players struggled to put any velocity behind the ball after a minute of running and diving. Finally, Hawari put an end to the point with a well-placed shot.
“You have a long, hard rally like that, winning it is big emotional lift and momentum shift,” Feller said.
Following the physically draining point, Cal launched a 10-5 run to win the set, 25-18.
At the outset of the fourth frame, Washington State proved it was not going to just submit. By the 18th point, the teams were tied, 9-9.
“We need to respect that each team in the Pac-12 will fight tooth and nail, even if they don’t have a number in front of their name,” Feller said.
By the time the score read 20-16 in favor of the Bears, the squad looked poised to finally seal the deal. Cal won the 21st point, and the athlete who sealed it was none other than Brown, who recorded her final block of the night.
Although it took four tries at set point, Cal eventually won the frame, 25-23 — and with it the match.
Brown, on the best night of her career, was all smiles after.
Austin Crochetiere covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]