Cal volleyball trumped by Arizona, Arizona State

Ariel D. Hayat/Staff

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The Bears’ losing streak continues after a meeting with the Arizona schools this weekend.

The Cal volleyball team fell to the Sun Devils (17-9 overall, 7-7 Pac-12) in four sets Friday night at Haas Pavilion, followed shortly by a three-set loss to the Wildcats (18-7, 7-6) on Sunday.

One of the biggest issues for the Bears (8-16, 0-14) going into Friday’s game was their inconsistency on both offense and defense — when Cal had a good performance on offense, their defense was lacking, and vice versa. The Bears still struggled with coming together as a team and getting all of their components to work in sync. This problem seemed to be somewhat mollified when Cal began Friday’s game by taking the lead early on in the first set.

The Bears remained in the lead for most of the first set until the Sun Devils managed to tie the set 17-17. Cal, led by freshman outside hitter Ashten Smith-Gooden with five kills in the first set, went back out front and eventually took the set, 28-26.

With almost identical statistics for both the Bears and the Sun Devils in the first set, it was clear that most of the game would come down to the little things — more specifically, which team would be able to perform better in a high-intensity atmosphere. This is where the Bears were lacking. Having no prior Pac-12 wins, Cal started to fall apart. Arizona State took the second set 25-22, reaching a .300 hitting percentage to the Bears’ .190.

The third set saw another close score, with the Sun Devils winning the third match 26-24. The Bears had an even lower hitting percentage of .105 to Arizona State’s .229, led by the Sun Devils’ junior outside hitter Macey Gardner. Despite Cal’s 11 total blocks for the game, Gardner and the rest of her squad proved to be too powerful of an offensive opponent for the Bears’ defense and Cal lost the fourth and final set 25-22.

While the team may have finally come together successfully, their individual play took a hit. Unfinished plays and individual errors made at crucial points in the match proved to be the Bears’ downfall, robbing Cal of their best chance at their first conference win.

“I feel encouraged that we played well as a team. What’s discouraging is that when the team played well, the terminal play didn’t come out the way we wanted because of an individual just being able not to execute,” said Cal head coach Rich Feller. “We played some great defense, but we just couldn’t finish the rallies. And when I say ‘we,’ it’s really a team game, so you can’t throw one person on it, but it is finishing that play, and we couldn’t do that.”

Now, the Bears have a whole week to address the new and old problems that have emerged before taking on their next Pac-12 opponent Friday.

“We’re aware of the inconsistency, and that’s what we need to work on, that’s what we need in order to be successful on the court,” said junior middle blocker Lillian Schonewise. “We have individual hitters on any given night that are just going off — Higgins some nights, Ashten some nights — and we haven’t had one of those nights where consistently across the board, everyone’s bringing their A-game.”

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

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