Bears lose to rival Stanford, end Pac-12 conference winless

photo of Cal women's basketball
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As the Pac-12 conference comes to a close, so too does gameplay for the mighty Bears. Cal women’s volleyball played its final home match against its rival Cardinal in hopes of a post-Thanksgiving feast — its first meal of the conference — but the match left them starving as the team racked up its 20th and final loss of the Pac-12.

On Nov. 27, No. 18 Stanford traveled to Bear territory to play Cal for the Pac-12’s final match, and the ferocious game ended in Cardinal victory as the team defeated the Bears in one fell swoop.

Stanford has had a fruitful conference, walking away with 13 of its 20 matches won and closing out its last several games on a five-match win streak. Cal aimed to break its rival’s streak, but the final set scores of the Haas Pavilion match resulted in scores of 12-25, 16-25 and 17-25 — the Bears were swept 0-3.

The first set opened up with a sharp Cardinal lead, but Cal answered back with kills from senior outside hitter Mima Mirkovic and sophomore middle blocker Lydia Grote to bring the score within 8-7. But Stanford was not in Berkeley to play games, returning the call with straight set points on its way to a 12-25 finish for the first set.

The Bears fought harder during the second set, trying not to fall as steeply behind as they did in the first, and even coming out with a closer set finish at 16-25. Mirkovic, who contributed during the first set, recorded a kill during the second and fought hard against the rival team.

The third set was fierce and the teams traded points until a standstill at 10-all behind two Grote kills. The teams continued to exchange blows, but a five-point Cardinal run (their second of the match) gave the team a huge lead over the Bears, and the match closed out 17-25.

Cal gradually improved throughout the sets, finishing each with a slightly closer loss than before. But the powerful playing of Stanford was too much for the Bears, specifically thanks to a few sharp players.

Stanford’s redshirt sophomore outside hitter Caitie Baird, junior opposite Kendall Kipp and freshman outside hitter Sami Francis battled hard for the Cardinal. Baird’s 14 kills on .364 hitting, accompanied by her seven digs, ace and solo block, were critical for the team. Kipp followed fiercely behind with 12 kills on a .375 hitting percentage, four digs, three blocks and an ace, and sapling Francis played hard during the third set to close out the match with nine kills and two blocks.

Stanford played a sharp game against the Bears, but its individual playing was no match for redshirt junior middle blocker Bella Bergmark, who came out of the match with a .500 hitting percentage. Her eight kills staved off the loss temporarily, but the delay was also a result of Grote’s sharp playing, who also contributed eight kills as well as a block for the team.

The match marked the final face-off of this season’s conference games, but it also meant Senior Night for the tenured Cal athletes battling on the court one last time. Two seniors finished their collegiate careers with stellar performances: Outside hitters Katie Smoot and Mirkovic both tallied six kills for the Bears, and Mirkovic added a block for her last game with Cal.

During its match against the Bears, rival Stanford came out strong and squashed Cal’s opportunity for a single Pac-12 win. This loss marks the Bears’ final match and entrance into early hibernation, as a winless conference means a long, playless approaching season.

Mia Wachtel covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].