Last year, the Cal volleyball team finished the season with only two Pac-12 wins — a fact that’s on the mind of every single player in 2015. The Bears entered this weekend looking to tie or even surpass this mark. Cal’s first opponent came Friday: No. 4 Washington, a team that was looking to bounce back from a five-set loss to Stanford. Unfortunately, the Huskies proved to be too much for the Bears to handle, as they fell in three straight sets, 25-15, 30-28, 25-16.
“I didn’t think Washington did a lot that really hurt us — we just hurt ourselves by not playing very intense,” said Cal head coach Rich Feller. “We didn’t really get good play out of a lot of players. Lillian was the bright spot out there offensively, but other than that, we didn’t sustain any success long enough.”
But all was not lost for the Bears, as they reversed the script in their second game of the weekend Sunday, needing only three sets to defeat Washington State, 28-26, 25-19, 26-24. Cal picked up its second Pac-12 win with this victory, already tying last season’s mark.
Redshirt senior middle blocker Lillian Schonewise came out in Friday’s game with an attacking mindset, finishing the night with a total of 16 kills. But the Bears weren’t able to produce any other effective offensive performances, as the next best players after Schonewise were able to finish with only six kills a piece.
Unfortunately, for the Bears the match was a completely different story for the Huskies, who had four players finish with seven kills or more. Senior middle blocker Lianna Sybeldon led the Huskies, finishing with a total of 10 kills and a .750 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Tia Scambray followed closely behind, ending with nine kills and a .500 hitting percentage.
The Huskies made it incredibly difficult for the Bears, as they easily broke through Cal’s defense. Junior libero Maddy Kerr gave the Bears a great defensive performance, but in the end, her 16 digs just weren’t enough to slow down Washington.
The second set against Washington was the closest Cal would get to tasting victory. The Bears led at the end of the second set, 24-21, but they weren’t able to close the deal. The Huskies showed why they’re the fourth best team in the nation, never quitting and catching up to win the set, 28-26.
Luckily, the Bears didn’t allow their troubles from Friday to creep into Sunday, as they were able to turn things around and beat Washington State in three sets. Schonewise once again led the Bears, finishing with a team-high 13 kills. Unlike on Friday, Schonewise was able to get a significant amount of help on offense. Contributions from freshman outside hitter Belen Castillo, who ended the day with 10 kills, and junior middle blocker Jenelle Jordan, contributing eight kills and eight blocks, played a big part in the Bears’ win.
“The aggressive attitude for me is always there, and I’m just working really hard to bring everyone up to the same level,” Schonewise said.
Kerr once again led the Bears on defense Sunday, never allowing the Cougars to take control of the game. She ended the day with 15 digs, but unlike in their game against the Huskies, other Bears stepped up on defense when it mattered most. One of these defensive performances came from freshman libero Amanda Kirtley, who ended the match with 12 digs.
Cal now has a total of two Pac-12 wins on the season, already tying what it was able to do last year.
Alex Quintana covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]