What makes a perfect song extends beyond the talent of the singer, guitarist or drummer. It’s more than a sick riff, amazing solo or catchy melody — it’s the blend of all pieces, a chorus in perfect harmony. Creating the perfect song is a mighty challenge indeed, and it was one that the Bears struggled in composing against Washington and WSU.
Cal played a fierce and controlled game during its matches against the Huskies and Cougars, but ultimately lost 3-1 and 3-0 respectively to the teams. Posting a 23-25, 25-20, 12-25, 23-25 finish during the game against Washington, the Bears found a stronger rhythm than they have in previous matches, but it wasn’t strong enough to outplay the Huskies in the end.
On the side of Cal, redshirt junior middle blocker Bella Bergmark played an impressive game at Alaska Airlines Arena, recording a career-high of 16 kills on .517 hitting percentage. Senior outside hitter Mima Mirkovic agrees that Bergmark consistently plays the tune of Pac-12 conference play especially well.
“It’s incredible watching her have a career high and I feel like she’s going to have one each match,” Mirkovic said.
This feat by Bergmark tracks with her captivating skill. To add to the individual victories of the Bears’ Oct. 22 match, junior outside hitter Leah Schmidt also set a career high, finishing the match with 14 kills, two digs and a .286 hitting percentage. But even with the formidable performances by Cal’s players, Washington’s game was too strong, having demonstrated its daunting grit throughout the conference thus far.
Outside hitters Claire Hoffman and Samantha Drechsel of the Huskies were offensive powerhouses during the home match. The Seattle team is robust — Hoffman made that much clear with her 17 kills and .405 hitting percentage. Adding a couple more beats to the team’s gameplay song, Drechsel also came to the forefront to demonstrate her skills, finishing the final set with 16 kills and a .517 hitting percentage.
The Bears were ultimately no match for the Huskies, and two days later found themselves beating to the rhythm of the other Washington drum at Bohler Gym. Much like its experience in its previous matchup with the Cougars, Cal was swept yet again, losing 25-17, 25-17, 25-20.
To the surprise of none, Bergmark laid down a match-high of 11 kills on .500 hitting percentage during the Oct. 24 match — an achievement consistent with the sentiments of Mirkovic. Sophomore middle blocker Lydia Grote also contributed to the Bears, finishing the match with seven kills.
On the side of No. 4 WSU, there were several players that went above and beyond on the high notes, contributing to perfectly harmonized play. Redshirt junior middle blocker Kalyah Williams defended her team extraordinarily well, and recorded a career-high of eight blocks. Freshman opposite Katy Ryan posted 10 kills on a .421 hitting percentage, an impressive performance for the new Cougar. Junior outside hitter Pia Timmer recorded 10 kills, four blocks and a .292 hitting percentage.
Currently standing at No. 2 and No. 4 in conference, the Washington teams are well-balanced and powerful rivals and had the advantage heading into the matches against the bottom-ranked Bears. That being said, the closeness of the matches was quite impressive on the side of the blue and gold.
Given its performance in previous matches, Cal has seen improvements and plans to continue bettering its play: “Cleaning up the little things will allow us to win those matches that are two points apart,” Mirkovic said.
The team’s optimism and tightening of its game play will be a determining force in the future of the Bears’ program.
“The future is bright not just for the remainder of the season, but for Cal volleyball,” Mirkovic said.
But as of now, the matches in Seattle and Pullman bring the Washington teams to 8-2 (Washington) and 7-3 (WSU) in conference, and leave Cal 0-10. Since the Bears’ play at the beginning of the Pac-12 stage, they have enhanced their performance and hope to see the song of the blue and gold play loud and clear in their coming match against ASU.