Cal volleyball eliminated in second round of NCAAs after sweep by Wisconsin

Carlos Caceres/Staff

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The Cal volleyball team completed an improbable comeback Friday night when the Bears topped the No. 22 Tar Heels to move on in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003. But the next day, they failed to duplicate the effort.

No. 12 Wisconsin (25-9, 12-8 Big 10) ran away from the Bears (18-13, 10-10 Pac-12) in a 3-0 sweep (25-19, 25-18, 25-21) on Saturday in Madison, Wis., in the second round of the tournament.

In the first set, Cal kept it close against the Badgers early. But midway through the set, the Badgers started outhitting the Bears by a significant margin, and a five-point run put them up 20-13 over Cal.

Though the Bears scored the next three points, the set was already out of reach. Wisconsin won 25-19.

In the second set, the story was much the same. The Badgers’ scorers would not be denied, and Wisconsin took that set as well, 25-18.

After hitting at a blistering .548 percentage in the first set, the Badgers came back with a .474 effort in the second. Wisconsin had hit just three errors until that point in the match. The Bears, in comparison, hit at impressive .314 and .278 clips, but those numbers were a far cry from Wisconsin’s.

“They were just on their game,” said Cal coach Rich Feller. “Wisconsin didn’t let us get momentum.”

Wisconsin was able to do so well through a balanced attack. Five different players had more than seven kills, and no player had more than Ellen Chapman’s 14. To say the Badgers spread the ball around well is an understatement: They were able to score from nearly every position.

“Any time we didn’t get a kill, they were able to take a really good swing at the ball,” Feller said.

The Bears also used a balanced attack. Christina Higgins led the way with 12 kills, but Lillian Schonewise and Lara Vukasovic also added nine each. And Adrienne Gehan recorded eight in her final match with Cal. Despite those efforts, the Bears were unable to keep pace with Wisconsin.

But in the third set, the match flipped on its head. Those offenses that were running so efficiently before sputtered. Wisconsin, which recorded six errors in the third set, was able to put up a .225 hitting percentage, which was dwarfed by the effort in the previous sets. Cal, meanwhile, hit at just .089 with nine errors. The Badgers were able to outlast the Bears as both offenses came crashing down to reality and took the set and the match, 25-21.

For the match as a whole, the tilt came out to .404 to .205 in favor of Wisconsin.

The loss brings the Bears’ season to an end, though not a disappointing one. Cal came into the tournament having lost five straight and never even expected to beat UNC on Friday. Though the Bears probably didn’t expect to be toppled in three once they got to the second round, no one really expected them to make it that far anyway

“There’s satisfaction in getting to the second round,” Feller said. “Then there’s a little bit of frustration in the feeling that every player has that we could have done better.”

Contact Riley McAtee at [email protected]