After falling to Pacific, Cal volleyball recovers against Nevada, UCSB

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After eight years of an undefeated record during the Molten Classic, the Bears lost a game in the tournament this weekend.

The Cal women’s volleyball team emerged from the Molten Classic over the weekend with a 2-1 record. But despite the winning mark, the Bears’ most memorable match of the weekend came in the form of their only loss to Pacific (7-2).

Cal opened the tournament against the Tigers on Friday, which marked their first appearance at Haas Pavilion for the 2014 season, simultaneously earning the first-ever loss for the Bears in the tournament’s history.

Cal started the first set out strong, but Pacific countered with an eight-point streak, eventually leading the Bears 10-5. Cal battled back and eventually cut the deficit to 22-20, but the Tigers’ hit streak continued, and Pacific took the first set, 25-22.

With the momentum from their first-set win, the Tigers came out with a bang in the second set, taking a 6-0 lead over the Bears and forcing an early Cal timeout. The Bears could not find an answer to Pacific’s junior opposite hitter Kat Schulz and sophomore outside hitter Lexi Elman, who led the Tiger’s offense toward a 25-20 second-set win.

The Bears seemed to find new energy in the third set, and, while the set was close, Cal’s burst of energy came too late, and the Bears fell to Pacific 25-21.

“The crux is we played very, very poorly,” said Cal head coach Rich Feller. “We didn’t do anything very well. We didn’t represent ourselves well in any area. There was nothing good going on.”

The next day of the tournament, Cal took on Nevada (3-4) and UC Santa Barbara (3-6) and won both games in four sets.

Senior opposite hitter Christina Higgins’ 16 kills combined with sophomore libero Maddy Kerr’s season-high 25 digs led the Bears to defeat the Wolf Pack 25-18, 23-25, 25-17, 25-16.

Higgins’ offense stayed consistent throughout the match against the Gauchos, contributing 11 kills in the four-set win against UC Santa Barbara. Kerr also added 16 more digs throughout the game, and after averaging 4.82 digs per set was named to the All-American team.

Cal was also able to showcase the depth of their team against the Gauchos, with freshman defensive specialist Gaby deGuzman making her college debut with eight digs.

“We’ve got some depth, and we needed them last night,” Feller said of the Cal bench. “We weren’t great in the first game and a half — we were very good as a team but some of our players struggled a little bit. We went to the bench and got some real good support. Our bench is going to prove very valuable as we go into the long days of the season.”

Sophomore outside hitter Nikki Gombar also saw more playing time, helping the Bears close out the tournament with nine digs. Freshman outside hitter Antzela Dempi combined with Gombar for 11 kills in the final game.

“The skill is there, its just a matter of being able to perform while there’s pressure,” Feller said. “There was a lot of stuff going on with the first home game, so I can pass off some of it to that experience, but we saw issues with our defense and we have to fix those things.”

Alicia Fong covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]