BERKELEY – Cal’s women’s volleyball team learned a lesson it already knew Sunday night.
There is an absurdly small margin for error in the Pac-12 Conference.
The Bears weren’t at their best and Utah was, and it resulted in a 25-23, 17-25, 25-20, 25-16 Utes victory at Haas Pavilion.
“It wasn’t anything totally unexpected as ar as how good Utah is,” Cal coach Rich Feller said. “Everyone in the conference is good. There are tough matches all around the conference.”
Sunday’s was about as tough as the Bears (10-5, 3-3 Pac-12) has faced this season. Even with their win in the second set, it was arguably the most difficult of Cal’s five losses. The Bears hit a season-low .192 as a team and were blocked 13 times by the Utes (14-4, 3-3).
The Utes entered the weekend ranked 13th in the nation with 2.83 blocks per set and immediately put their blocking prowess on display to begin the match. Utah blocked two balls and raced out to an 8-1 lead in the first set. The Bears were able to come back to lead 21-18, but the Utes fought back and closed out the set on back-to-back blocks.
The Bears were able to get their offense in gear in the second set, hitting .423 and easily evening up the match. But the third and fourth sets were more like the first, as Cal’s hitters struggled to put balls down cleanly and Utah ran an efficient offense.
“They are one of the best blocking teams out there, and we made them good blockers,” Feller said. “We hit balls that gave them a lot of opportunities to block. I think that took a little wind out of our sails and made us questions things, and we started hitting errors. I thought our passing was pretty good. We just didn’t seem to be able to run our offense the way we wanted to. It was never really a comfortable feeling.”
Gehan led the Bears with 20 kills while junior opposite hitter Christina Higgins added 13 kills and two blocks. The Utes had four players in double figures in kills and hit .264 for the match.
“Utah is a solid, solid team,” Feller said. “I hope they go on and win every other match they play until they play us again so they prove to everyone else that we aren’t quite as bad and they are really as good as they played tonight.”
The Bears return to the court Wednesday night when they play at No. 6 Washington at 7:30 p.m. The match will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.