Cal volleyball splits weekend matches, upsets No. 21 WSU

Kaho Otake/Staff

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Cal volleyball managed to pull off another upset victory this weekend. In the Bears’ pair of homecoming matches, Cal suffered a 3-0 loss Friday to No. 18 Washington before toppling No. 21 Washington State, 3-1, on Sunday.

With a brace on senior captain Carmen Annevelink’s foot, Cal head coach Jennifer Dorr began the weekend with freshman Makana Meyer joining junior captain Bailee Huizenga as the Bears’ right-side hitters.

Scoring the Bears’ first point of the match, Meyer helped Cal get off to a quick start, playing even with Washington. Despite falling behind in the middle of the match, the Bears managed to come back to make the end of the set as interesting as possible.

A key rally — featuring a pancake from junior Emma Smith, smart tip placement from sophomore Mima Mirkovic and a kill from Huizenga down the line — tied the Bears with the Huskies at 23-23.

The teams continued to trade points; Washington led 26-25 when the Huskies blocked Cal — the result of a Washington pancake earlier in the point. While the Huskies naturally assumed the set was over, Dorr challenged the final call, arguing that the ball hit the floor.

Dorr, who seems to have far more rejected challenges than successful ones, ended up winning the challenge, but it wasn’t enough for the Bears to win the set.

Despite coming off a tight 28-30 loss, Cal failed to match its initial intensity throughout the remainder of the match. The Bears surrendered the latter two sets 25-21 and 25-20 to drop the match 3-0.

Coming into Sunday’s match against Washington State, Cal was eager to end its weekend at home with a win.

After playing as the Cougars’ most efficient hitter in their last match against Stanford, Washington State senior Taylor Mims didn’t play a minute in Haas Pavilion. Instead, 5’8” sophomore Penny Tusa was left to fill her shoes — Tusa did a fair job, recording seven kills in the opening set.

Overall strong play from both teams brough Washington State to set point at 23-24. Continuing the match, though, Huizenga’s powerful swing kept the Bears in contention for a first-set victory.

As the teams continued trading bitter set points, freshman Jade Blevins continued setting through the front row while Huizenga also stayed in, playing defense in the back — roles neither player typically fills.

“It was due to subs,” Dorr said. “It’s something we’ve been practicing more so we can get comfortable with it. If we play really tight sets with people, we’re going to run out of subs.”

Although the Cougars wished the set to be longer, the Bears ultimately pulled through to take the first set 32-30.

The second set wasn’t quite as the nice for the Bears, though.

“Our serve and pass really broke down,” Dorr said. “When the passing breaks down, it affects the setting, it affects the offense — it’s an avalanche effect.”

Cal’s inconsistency led the team to give up several consecutive points and hit a -0.067. Clearly dominating the set, the Cougars didn’t let up much, finishing the second set 25-15.

After getting an earful between sets two and three, the Bears came back to the court refocused. Staying even with the Cougars throughout the set and pushing through at the end, Cal came out ahead 25-23.

While Cal’s middle blockers and Huizenga were the Bears’ most effective offensive assets in the first three sets, it was Mirkovic who found herself hitting her groove in the fourth.

Dominating the set with kill after kill from Mirkovic, Huizenga and sophomore Preslie Anderson, Cal forced a Washington State timeout at 18-13.

But the timeout couldn’t help the Cougars, as another crosscourt kill from Huizenga and back-to-back blocks from junior Maddie Haynes and redshirt freshman Lauren Forte extended Cal’s lead to 22-14. The Bears ultimately managed to maintain their lead to pull out the 25-20 win and upset the No. 21 Cougars.

Cal’s split set of matches was important as the young Bears continued to make their names heard. This weekend marked Cal’s last one at home for the month — the Bears are set to travel for the remainder of October as they continue their Pac-12 slate.

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