Cal volleyball head coach Jennifer Dorr accomplished more than earning her first career win this weekend. In sweeping the competition at Haas Pavilion and winning the Cal Molten Classic title, Dorr helped her team define what the Bears’ 2018 season will ideally look like.
This weekend, Cal ran a 6-2 rotation, featuring sophomore Isabel Potter and freshman Jade Blevins as the Bears’ setters. Though the team has plenty of young talent, the players had clear chemistry from the start, opening the tournament and the season with a 3-0 win over Chicago State.
Though the Cougars and Bears started the first set neck and neck, Cal went on to build a nine-point lead against a struggling Chicago State offense, with the help of multiple kills from freshman Bella Bergmark. Getting too comfortable, Cal dropped a level in its intensity along with several points, offering Chicago State a path back in with just a single-point difference.
“We’d get up to a big lead and then in the middle of the set we’d start to lose our focus or not follow our assignments and credit to Chicago State — they made some good plays and made us feel uncomfortable,” Dorr said.
With everyone on the edge of their seats, the Bears eventually closed out the set 25-23, but primarily because of an attack error from the Cougars.
“You never want to let the other team in and think they have a chance,” said senior captain Carmen Annevelink. “I think we got that big lead and relaxed a little bit. We have to stay on our game until the last whistle blows.”
Translating their post-set talk into action, the Bear maintained their dominance throughout the following two sets, finishing those 25-15, 25-18.
Later Friday evening, Cal took to the court again for the team’s matchup with Rutgers, which had dropped an earlier match to Colgate — the final team in the four-team tournament.
The Bears started the first set of the match with multiple attack errors and a four-point deficit, but quickly regained their footing. With sophomore Mima Mirkovic on the service line at 14-14, Cal put together a few big plays, with two kills from Annevelink, to take a four-point lead. Growing their lead even more, the Bears finished the set 25-17.
The Scarlet Knights challenged the Bears to a much tighter second set, matching all of Cal’s runs with their own. But with a couple notable kills from junior captain Bailee Huizenga, the Bears pulled ahead from the 19-19 standstill to finish the set 25-20.
In what would be the final set of the match, Cal stepped up its offense, recording a 0.321 kill percentage to Rutgers’ 0.160, and finished the set 25-18.
The Bears wrapped up the tournament with their third sweep over Colgate on Saturday afternoon. Finishing the match 25-16, 25-18, 25-14, the Bears certainly seemed to have gotten their jitters out.
While the Bears saw strong leadership on the court from Annevelink and Huizenga this weekend, the underclassmen certainly dominated playing time.
Bergmark, in particular, had a standout start to her career, recording a 0.833 kill percentage with her 12 attempts in the Chicago State match. Blevins, too, proved a strong asset for the team, leading Cal with 21 assists against Rutgers.
“It’s really exciting to be able to have the youth of the team have a good positive experience their first time out there,” Dorr said. “We hope that it just builds and builds for them, because it only is going to get harder from here on out.”
Surina Khurana covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].