The Cal volleyball team entered the weekend with one goal in mind: to finally win a Pac-12 match. Luckily for the Bears, they had two opportunities to accomplish this goal, both coming at home.
The Bears’ first game came Friday against No. 25 Oregon, a team that was looking to win its second straight match after defeating Utah on Oct. 3. This was followed by Oregon State on Sunday, which, unlike the Ducks, entered the weekend looking to bounce back from a crushing three-set loss to Stanford on Friday.
Unfortunately, the conference woes of the Bears only continued, as they fell to both teams in three straight sets.
“We didn’t execute what we really wanted to do,” said Cal head coach Rich Feller. “We lacked good team work that would’ve helped us generate points even when there wasn’t an easy point to be had.”
Oregon entered Haas Pavilion ready to play, needing only three sets to defeat Cal, (26-24, 25-19, 25-22 ). The Ducks were led Friday by freshman outside hitter Lindsey Vander Weide, who finished the game with a team-high 13 kills. Senior outside hitter Martenne Bettendorf fed off the energy of Weide all night long, finishing with 11 kills of her own. Bettendorf also contributed heavily on defense, ending the day with a team high of 12 digs.
When it came to the Bears, the only significant offensive performances of the night came from two players, senior middle blockers Lillian Schonewise and and Lara Vukasovic. Schonewise led the charge against the quack attack, cumulating a total of 17 kills. Vukasovic was also able to reach the double-digit mark in kills, contributing with a total of 11. But the Bears weren’t able to produce anywhere near the offensive play they needed in order to win this match, as the next-highest player was able to reach only five kills.
Junior defensive specialist Sabrina Blackwell led the charge for Cal on defense, finishing with a total of eight digs. Fellow junior Maddy Kerr followed closely behind, making a total of seven digs throughout the match. Still, this wasn’t enough to stop the Ducks’ offense, as it finished with a total of 51 kills for the day.
Sunday would only prove to be the same exact story for the Bears, as they were once again swept in three sets, this time by Oregon State (25-17, 25-20, 25-21). Cal was led on offense by Vukasovic, who finished the day with a team high of 12 kills. Sophomore outside hitter Christine Alftin finished closely behind with a total of nine kills and a .200 hitting percentage.
Blackwell once again stood tough for the Bears on defense, ending the day with a total of 17 digs. But it wasn’t the defense that cracked Sunday — it was the offense.
“The defense was good all day, but there’s definitely some other parts of our game that we need to improve,” Blackwell said.
The Bears shot themselves in the foot the entire match, registering an unbelievable 25 attacking errors. This fact made it impossible for the Bears to win a set the entire day.
“We made 25 unforced hitting errors. That’s basically a set worth of errors, and that was part of why sets got away from us,” Feller said. “When you give someone a point like that, it’s often a psychological point, and on the next play, it stays in the team’s collective brain.”
But not all is lost for the Bears, as Kerr placed her name on the Cal all-time list by registering 15 digs for the day. This now gives her a staggering total of 1,143 digs for her career.
Still, getting this team to win is likely the most important thing on everybody’s mind, not individual accomplishments. Winning their first Pac-12 match is still the No. 1 one goal for the Bears, especially because they have now lost a total of six straight conference matches.
Alex Quintana covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]