As Cal women’s volleyball walked off the court following their loss against No. 2 Stanford Friday night, the team’s postseason dreams were up in the air. The rivalry match was the last chance for the Bears (15-15, 9-11) to make a strong impression on the selection committee.
But they had failed.
“The loss puts us on the bubble,” Cal coach Rich Feller said. “It’s like a boxing match, you never want to leave it up to the judges and you want something decisive. It’s out of our hands now.”
The Big Spike turned into a quick and decisive 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-19) sweep for Stanford (27-3, 19-1), a game that acted like a microcosm of Cal’s entire season.
“There were times we battled and there were other times that one little thing took us out of sync, and we lost points because of it,” Feller said. “It was a mini-story of the whole season.”
In the first set, the Bears showed some grit after falling behind 18-13. A 6-2 run fueled by two kills from junior Adrienne Gehan brought the Bears to within two at 21-19. However, three straight points by the Cardinal put the set out of reach, eventually winning 25-20.
The second frame was the strongest set for Cal in the contest in which the Bears led most of the way. By the 32nd point the Bears still held a lead at 17-15 following a powerful kill and block by senior Corey Johnson playing in possibly her last game at Haas Pavilion.
However, the lead would not last for the Bears. Cal committed five critical hitting errors as the set was coming down to the wire, points that would eventually give the Cardinal the set victory.
“At the 20-20 range, if we had gotten half of those swings, who knows what would have happened,” Feller said.
Down two sets, the Bears seemed to lose focus in the third frame. Although Cal found themselves within two at 15-13, that was the closest Cal would get in the third set.
“I like how we played in sets one and two,” Feller said. “In set three we had too many let downs, a ball dropping between two players or somebody not paying attention, to be competitive.”
Stanford cruised to the 25-19 set victory, finishing their season as Pac-12 champs and locks for the NCAA postseason. Cal, meanwhile, can only sit and wait for the selection show on Sunday to know their fate.
The feeling of postseason uncertainty is new to the Cal seniors, who have easily earned bids in the past. The graduating Bears careers may have ended on a sour note with the loss against their rivals, and their faces said it all.
“Looking at them after the match, there is a lot of disappointment on faces,” Feller said. “Shannon Hawari, Correy Johnson and Kat Brown probably left the court not feeling satisfied, but they had given everything they could give.”
Austin Crochetiere covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]