LOS ANGELES – Cal’s women’s volleyball team put its mental toughness on display Friday night. As a result, the Bears did something they’ve never done in the program’s history.
Junior opposite hitter Christina Higgins tied a career-high with 18 kills and Cal registered its first-ever sweep at Pauley Pavilion with a 28-26, 31-29, 25-14 victory over No. 16 UCLA.
The Bears (9-3, 2-1 Pac-12) staved off two set points in each of the first two sets then rolled to the win in the third set to notch just their seventh win ever over the Bruins.
“Anytime you go on the road in the Pac-12 and get a win, it’s a plus,” Cal coach Rich Feller said. “With the history we have with UCLA, it’s a double plus.”
Cal had never beaten UCLA before 2005, but the Bears are now 7-10 against the Bruins since then. Friday’s win snapped a four-match losing streak against them.
The Bears fell behind 24-23 in the first set but got a kill from sophomore middle blocker Lara Vukasovic to tie it up. UCLA had set point again but a Bruins hitting error created another tie. UCLA then fought off one Cal set point before sophomore middle blocker Lillian Schonewise ended it with a kill.
The Bruins (9-5, 0-4) then staved off four Cal set points of their own late in the second set before taking a 28-27 advantage. Kills by Higgins and senior outside hitter Adrienne Gehan kept the set alive for the Bears, and then back-to-back hitting errors by UCLA gave Cal the commanding lead.
“The way we got down and kept fighting shows a lot about what this team is about,” said Gehan, who had 12 kills and three blocks. “We’re never going to give up. I think we’ve been pretty underrated. I think this kind of proves that, coming out and beating a ranked team in three.
Not only did Higgins match her career high in kills which she reached twice last season against Arizona and Washington, she hit for a staggering .500 percentage. She made just three errors all night as the Bruins never found a way to slow her down.
“I just really had the goal to swing high and be aggressive the whole night,” Higgins said. “I knew they had a really big block up, so that was my focus.”
Vukasovic added five blocks and setter Joan Caloiaro dished out 41 assists as the Bears hit .322 as a team. The Bears will next travel to No. 2 USC on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. The match will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
“it’s a real credit to where we are mentally as a team right now and how the team is trusting in each other and themselves,” Feller said. “At the top of every scouting sheet we have is ‘play harder for longer.’ That’s one of our mottos this year, and I think we did a good job of that tonight.”