Cal volleyball enters second half of Pac-12 play, sweeps UCLA

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Energy exists in a number of forms, but today we will consider two categories — potential energy and all other forms of energy.

Throughout this volleyball season, Cal’s roster has established its potential but has infrequently translated any of its stored energy into action. Yet the Bears’ performance Friday night proved they were finally getting into motion and making use of their potential.

Sweeping then-No. 20 UCLA in the comfort of the Bruins’ Pauley Pavilion, Cal ended the night with its most important win of the season.

“The first time around we played them, when it got tight, like at 20 all, we backed off,” said Cal head coach Jennifer Dorr. “This time, we played with more confidence, more execution and everyone just doing their jobs.”

In the teams’ last encounter in Berkeley, the Bears surrendered a 2-0 set lead to drop the match. This time, though, Cal forced a .171 hitting percentage out of UCLA, playing with a cohesive offense and defense.

The Bears have only swept one other team since conference play began, and this win — which took place several hours from home — showcased just how far the team has grown this season.

After a day of rest in Southern California, the Bears sought to carry their strong Friday performance into Sunday’s match against No. 15 USC. But they were unable to completely translate it, and they fell 3-1.

“USC is a different team than UCLA, so the things that we’re working on Friday night weren’t working on Sunday afternoon,” Dorr said. “I think that put a little bit of stress on us.”

The Bears were able to compete neck and neck with the Trojans, losing the first set in a jaw-dropping 35-33 loss and taking the fourth set with a dominating 25-18 win. Yet Cal could have pushed a fifth set or even come away with a win if the team had played as a more consistent unit rather than a combination of strong and weak components.

“One position might’ve been struggling while another position was doing well, and then five points later, it would flip,” Dorr said. “It was difficult to feel like we were getting anything going.”

Lacking much practice time to translate the weekend’s lessons into action, Cal welcomed Colorado for a midweek match.

As the Buffaloes’ big blockers recorded 10 blocks to the Bears’ three, Cal’s offense visibly struggled more than Colorado’s at putting the ball away. The Bears came close to pushing a fourth set, dropping the first and the third by just two-point margins, but ultimately fell 3-0.

Cal, back at home for its next three matches, will host Utah on Friday night. Although the Bears upset the Utes last time out, Dorr continuously stresses the importance of entering each match with fresh eyes, no matter the previous result.

“We know that anything that we did in the first half of the season doesn’t mean anything for the second half,” Dorr said. “Each team is a little bit more battle-prepared. Some teams have made some adjustments, some different players are out on the court. You can never rest on your laurels.”

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