All good things come to an end eventually. It’s true, and Cal fans are all too familiar with the phrase, no matter the sport. An end to a good run was exactly what happened to the Bears’ volleyball team, as their seven-game losing streak was snapped by back-to-back losses to USC and No. 25 UCLA.
Cal’s trip to Southern California was spoiled soon after its arrival, as unranked USC got out to a 2-0 lead over the Bears. The first set was especially bad for the Bears, as they were outscored 25-14. Cal went on to win the next set, but the Trojans’ early dominance was too much for the Bears to climb back from, as they fell with a final score of 3-1.
Despite the loss to USC, junior Mima Mirkovic continued her dominance for Cal, recording her third-straight double-double with 12 digs and 14 kills. The three-game streak would end at UCLA though, as she came up just short with nine digs and 13 kills.
Blocks and errors came to haunt Cal, as USC recorded 15.5 blocks to Cal’s four and only 12 errors to the Bears’ 32. The loss was a tough one for a team that had become so accustomed to winning, and the effect would show in the game that followed on Sunday at UCLA.
Just as in the USC game, Cal dropped its first two sets and was unable to recover, ultimately resulting in a second straight 3-1 loss. The Bears were close to being swept, trailing 24-22 in the third set, but they were able to rally back late and take the set 27-25.
Unfortunately for Cal, avoiding the 3-0 set sweep wasn’t enough to help the Bears avoid a weekend sweep, as the loss to the Bruins made it two straight defeats, the first time Cal has lost back-to-back games all year. The winless weekend would see Cal fall from No. 15 to No. 20 in the AVCA Coaches rankings.
Redshirt sophomore Lauren Forte had a dominant performance against UCLA, recording a career-best 17 kills. The strong personal performance from the underclassman should be comforting for the Bears going forward, despite the loss.
The two losses hurt Cal’s standings in the Pac-12, as the team fell into a four-way tie for second place with Washington State, Washington, and UCLA.
UCLA also defeated No. 5 Stanford last Friday, which was bittersweet for the Bears, as the rival Cardinal dropped to 8-2 in conference play instead of maintaining its safe lead over Cal at 9-1. On the other hand, this meant that the Bruins moved up to 7-3 after a 2-0 weekend, giving them the same record as the Bears in conference play and leaving them tied for second.
Cal will be looking to break a losing streak for the first time this season, and aiming to improve to 9-3 in conference play as it hosts Oregon on Friday and Oregon State on Saturday. Luckily for the Bears, the Beavers sit at 3-7 in conference play, and the Ducks at an even worse 2-8, so the games should go in Cal’s favor and help the team return to its winning ways.
When Cal traveled north to play then-No. 25 Oregon and Oregon State in the beginning of October, the team swept both the Ducks and Beavers 3-0. Both games will prove to be important ones again, as conference play is at its peak and every game matters even more than the last.
Cal will host Oregon on Friday at 7:00 p.m. and Oregon State on Saturday, also at 7:00 p.m.