After falling flat on your face, it’s hard to get up — your face stings, you’re slightly embarrassed and you’re nervous for a repeat fall. Yet this weekend, Cal volleyball not only got back up after quickly flying its white flag at Oregon but also proceeded to demolish Oregon State in the Bears’ first Pac-12 sweep.
Cal left the state of Oregon 1-1, dropping a match to the Ducks while securing a third conference win over the Beavers.
Cal arrived at No. 16 Oregon eager to transform its victory over Washington State into a tangible win streak. Yet from the start, the Bears clearly could not match the Ducks’ level.
Oregon opened the set with a sizable run from Ducks’ redshirt sophomore Brooke Van Sickle. Within mere minutes Oregon was up 9-3. A couple of unforced errors on the Bears’ side of the net and several kills from Oregon’s senior Lauren Page allowed the Ducks to extend their lead to 19-7.
Cal struggled to put the ball away against Oregon’s solid, all-around players, eventually dropping the set 25-12 — one of the team’s widest spread losses.
“I think we stayed together,” said sophomore Isabel Potter. “A couple of things obviously got rocky and didn’t really go well for us, but I think no matter what, we do stay together, even if things don’t go well.”
The following two sets fared much better for the Bears. Although they’d end up surrendering both sets 25-22, Cal’s offense improved drastically throughout the match, even though the Bears weren’t able to match the Ducks’ big hitters.
Cal recorded a team hitting percentage of .267 and .343 in the latter two sets, largely because of performances from junior Bailee Huizenga and redshirt freshman Lauren Forte.
Propelling themselves forward after suffering the tough loss, the Bears entered Sunday’s match against OSU eager to avenge Friday’s events. While the Beavers aren’t nearly as competitive as the Ducks, the match was pivotal nonetheless.
Cal head coach Jennifer Dorr opted to run a 5-1 offense under Potter’s leadership as opposed to the Bears’ traditional 6-2 system that features freshman Jade Blevins splitting setting time with Potter.
Working as a cohesive unit, the Bears played with a strong offense to complement its sturdy defense. Both Huizenga and sophomore Mima Mirkovic recorded double-digit kills while Forte’s six blocks prevented the Beavers from getting many kills.
“We really went out there and we took care of business,” Potter said. “One of our focuses was to do our job, which we did this weekend, which is really great.”
In fact, OSU thoroughly struggled to find the court around the block in the first set, finishing the set with as many kills as attack errors. The Beavers’ subpar offense was largely responsible for their 25-16 loss in the first set.
While they, like the Bears on Friday, came back stronger for the following two sets, it was not nearly enough to kill Cal’s high.
The Bears took the next two sets, 25-23 and 25-20, making their win over the Beavers their first Pac-12 sweep.
“I think we did a great job of really having a sense of urgency and having our foot on the gas pedal the entire game and really not letting up,” Potter said, who recorded three blocks of her own. “We did our jobs and we executed in three, which is really great for us.”
While Friday’s loss was a sure slap in the face, the Bears still managed to get back up and lay down a slap of their own.