The Cal volleyball team entered last week looking to send off its four seniors the right way: by winning both of its last career home games. The Bears, however, lost both of their games to Utah and Colorado over a three-day stretch.
The first game against the Utes for the Bears was all about the exceptional defense of junior libero Maddy Kerr. Kerr ended the night with a season-high 27 digs, keeping the Bears in every single set. No other Cal player, however, was able to step up for the Bears on defense, the next best performance coming from junior defensive specialist Sabrina Blackwell with eight digs.
When it came to the offense, Cal got a surprise performance from sophomore outside hitter Antzela Dempi. Dempi ended the night with a career-high 15 kills against Utah. The Bears also saw impressive offensive play from middle blockers, redshirt senior Lillian Schonewise and senior Lara Vukasovic, each finishing with a total of 13 kills apiece.
But in the end, the offense and defense of the Utes was just too much for the Bears to overcome, with Utah winning a close match in five sets (25-27, 25-21, 28-26, 25-22, 15-10). The Utes’ sophomore outside hitter Adora Anae led her team on offense with a team-high 28 kills at a .227 hitting percentage. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Carly Trueman followed in suit by finishing with 15 kills.
“We need to work a lot more on our serving and passing so we can get our offense going, execute and score some points,” Schonewise said.
Luckily the Bears had one more shot to get a win Saturday against the Buffaloes in what would be the last home game for Cal’s four seniors. The best performance of the night came from Vukasovic, who scored a total of 14 kills at a .324 hitting percentage. The next best offensive performance came from Schonewise, ending with seven kills at a .353 hitting percentage. No other Bears, however, were able to put up substantial performances, leading to Cal being outscored by 14 kills.
The defense for the Bears also wasn’t as productive as it had been in their last match against the Utes. Kerr was unable to carry over her great play from the previous match, ending the day with only three digs.
Vukasovic led the Bears in the first set of the match, which was the only close set the entire night. She scored a total of six kills in the set, putting the Bears in a prime position to take the game at 24-all.
Junior middle blocker Jenelle Jordan then scored a clutch kill for Cal, giving the Bears the lead at 24-25. But the Bears handed the the match over to the Buffaloes, scoring two straight attack errors, making the score 26-25.
Colorado’s senior setter Nicole Edelman then took advantage of the opportunity, scoring a service ace to win her team the set at 27-25.
“It’s tough, but I thought our team played some good volleyball. We had a chance to win Game One, but we just couldn’t get a kill when we needed it,” said Cal head coach Rich Feller. “When you lose a close game like that, it’s really hard to come back — it’s a huge momentum defeater.”
In the end, what hurt Cal the most was the fact that it was unable to get well-rounded performances from all of its players. This only resulted in the Bears losing in three straight sets for the 13th time this season. (27-25, 25-18, 25-21)
Even in a not-so-perfect season for the Bears, one thing is clear: The home crowd will certainly miss all four seniors, who brought energy and passion to the team every single day.
“It’s kind of bittersweet. Walking out there in the beginning with my family was really special, Schonewise said. “Everybody kind of made it a great day. It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’m sure it will.”
Alex Quintana covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]