Cal volleyball remains without win in Pac-12 play

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Despite ending their nine-set losing streak, the Bears are still winless in the Pac-12.

The Cal volleyball team fell to No. 18 Arizona State (13-4, 3-2 Pac-12) in four sets Friday at Wells Fargo Arena. Cal (8-8, 0-6) has been having an issue with consistency this season, or, more specifically, lack of consistency. The fluctuating nature of play from the Bears has been a key problem in their quest for their first conference win.

But instead of falling victim to this ongoing problem, Cal opened the match strong by taking the lead early in the first set and holding onto it, never trailing Arizona State. Cal ultimately took the opening set, 25-23.

The second set saw the Bears maintain their high energy from the first set, staying with the Sun Devils. But Arizona State eventually managed an 11-5 run after an intense back-and-forth battle and took the second set, 25-20.

The third set was similar to the second, with the Bears and the Sun Devils going back-and-forth until Arizona State had a four-point run and took the set, 25-17. The fourth and final set was close to the very end, with Cal coming within two points until the Sun Devils scored two more and won the match, 25-21.

“It was a solid couple games for us despite the loss,” said Cal head coach Rich Feller. “I don’t really think there’s anything different we were trying to do than last weekend, we were just able to do it.”

Leading the team was senior outside hitter Christina Higgins, who had 18 kills for the match. Behind Higgins in the stats was junior middle blocker Lillian Schonewise and freshman outside hitter Christine Alftin, who each had nine kills of their own.

“Some of the differences with our sport and football or something else is we don’t get to separate offense and defense,” Feller said. “We don’t have a platoon of players we can put in for defense and then send in our offensive players. We just played better (this weekend) as a team.”

Part of the Bears’ improvements can be attributed to the new lineup, which features sophomore middle blocker Jenelle Jordan, who has been seeing a lot of play time this season, recording six kills and three blocks against the Sun Devils. Junior outside hitter Nikki Gombar also saw the court during pivotal moments of the game, helping keep the Bears close to Arizona State in the final set.

Now, Cal has a solid week for practice until their next conference game, and the lineup could still change at any moment.

“We’re not going to rest on any laurels for sure because we have none to rest on,” Feller said. “For the players who have been around, it’s tough, there’s no doubt. I think the younger players are figuring out how hard this really is. No matter how hard they thought his was going to be, it got even harder when we got to the Pac-12.”

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