California is no stranger to drought, and apparently Cal isn’t either.
But there’s a difference between the dry spell in California and the Cal women’s volleyball team’s season — the miracle rain did not fall for the blue and gold during their home game Oct. 17 against Utah. Although, it did sprinkle a bit for sophomore middle blocker Lydia Grote.
Seasonal depression seems to be settling in early this year for the Bears as they rack up their eighth loss in Pac-12 conference play, still yet to have taken a dub. But unexpected ray of sunshine Grote seems to have shone through for the team, brightening the downcast Haas Pavilion, even if only just a little bit.
The California local fought hard during the match, a reality as clear as day given the fact that she walked away with a career-high of 21 kills — a whopping figure for the Bears. The number of kills only grew with the help of a couple key players.
Playing against her ex-home team, Utah transfer Leah Schmidt followed in Grote’s footsteps with 10 kills, finishing the game with a 0.321 hitting percentage. Redshirt junior Bella Bergmark and sophomore Sam Taumoepeau, as well as freshmen Ellie Ham and Annalea Maeder, also contributed kills to the blue and gold, giving the Bears a total of 44 kills for the match.
Remarkably, Cal led at the beginning of the first set, but soon lost its lead when Utah had a 4-0 run to bring the score to 8-9. After the two continued to exchange blows, Cal temporarily took the lead again at 19-17 after scoring four straight points. But Utah’s plays for the final points of the game were too overbearing.
Utah’s fifth-year Dani Drews was a particularly powerful player against the Bears. With her three consecutive kills in addition to blocks by senior Stef Jankiewicz and sophomore Allie Olsen, the Utes overpowered the Bears and finished the set 26-24.
So as much success as the Bears had — namely Grote’s kills and mini victories by other players — they just couldn’t keep up with the Utes. In the second set, the early moments were back-and-forth until Utah took a powerful lead with four kills in a row, making the score 13-8. The Bears, specifically Bergmark, fought back and reduced the gap to 15-13. But Utah answered her consecutive kills with a 4-1 run, and ultimately dominated the set.
During the third and final set of the match, Utah wasted no time in its mission to sweep the Bears and quickly led with a 10-3 start. Although the Bears put up a fight, eventually scoring enough points for a close score of 21-19, that was the end for Cal.
In all three sets, the Utes’ hitting percentage was at or above 0.310 –– a large difference from the Bears’ set average of 0.155. They also only made 10 errors, whereas the Bears made 25. Although Grote played an impressive game and accomplished a career high, she also made 14 of the team’s 25 errors.
The Utes played an overall extremely consistent game, and can now return home with another win, bringing them to 5-3 in Pac-12 conference play. As for the Bears, who have continued to falter in their matches, if a change isn’t made soon their 0-8 will only grow worse, and there will be no sunshine on the coming cloudy days.
Mia Wachtel covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].