Cal volleyball falls in 3-2 thriller against Arizona State

Ketki Samel/Staff

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On Sunday afternoon, Cal volleyball competed with Arizona State in a bitter tug of war contest, exchanging wins in tight sets to force yet another full, five-set match. Ultimately, the Sun Devils prevailed, 3-2, marking the Bears’ second loss in two conference matches.

Coming off a 3-0 defeat to No. 2 Stanford on Wednesday, Cal took to the court Sunday seeming fresh and ready for ASU’s competition. But just a few minutes into the game, the Bears were already in a rut.

Unforced errors and strong serving from the Sun Devils put the Bears in a seven-point hole, at 9-2. In an attempt to refocus the squad and perhaps cool off the hot hand of server Nicole Peterson, Cal head coach Jennifer Dorr called a timeout. The hole deepened, though, as Arizona State extended its lead to 11-3.

Slowly yet steadily, the Bears gained some traction as they developed a rhythm, with big kills from senior Carmen Annevelink and junior Bailee Huizenga, the team’s captains. The improved offense and decreased number of errors came too late, though, as Cal simply could not catch back up to ASU.

“I think every single day we can come into practice and know we can get better at something,” Huizenga said. “But I think being able to execute better on broken plays is something we can get a lot better at.”

After dropping the first set, 25-20 — a considerable feat for a team down 11-3 to kick things off — the Bears rebounded in the second set. Recording a .227 hitting percentage to ASU’s .067, Cal reclaimed its edge with a nail-biting 27-25 win.

Tied up at one set apiece, the two squads entered the third set on the same level. Initially, neither of the teams could separate itself from its opposition, as both sides prevented each other from large scoring bouts for the early portion of the game.

With Cal leading 16-13, a third-set victory for the Bears looked promising. But a Sun Devil kill, four attack errors and one ball handling error left Cal on the short end of a three-point ASU advantage.

With Ivana Jeremic taking charge, the Sun Devils propelled themselves forward, before the Bears could properly regain their footing, to finish the third set 25-22.

With the end of the match now finally in sight for ASU, Cal was forced to dig deeper to stay in contention for the win. And the Bears managed to do it. Rallying for the fifth set right until the end, the Bears went on a seven-point run to lead 23-20 in the fourth set, in part from sophomore Mima Mirkovic’s critical serving and senior Mackenzie Albrecht, the latter of whom was back in to set for the first time in weeks.

After taking the fourth set 25-21, the Bears trailed the Sun Devils in the 15-point final set but managed to find their rhythm once again to reach set and match point first. But near-perfect offensive execution came at the right time for Arizona State, as the Sun Devils eventually took the set 18-16 and took the win with them.

ASU started the match knocking Cal off its feet, but the Bears managed to get back up on multiple occasions. Although the match ended in a tough loss, it demonstrated the young team’s endurance yet again.

Surina Khurana covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @surina_k.