BERKELEY – The No. 22 Cal women’s volleyball team played No. 4 USC competitively for the second time this season, but again the Bears came up a bit short in a 25-23, 24-26, 25-12, 25-23 loss at Haas Pavilion on Friday night.
Senior setter Joan Caloiaro had a career-high 26 digs for the Bears (13-7, 6-5 Pac-12) while senior outside hitter Adrienne Gehan added 19 kills and a career-best 20 digs. Junior opposite hitter Christina Higgins added 13 kills and sophomore middle blocker Lara Vukasovic had 10 kills and four blocks.
The Trojans defeated the Bears in five sets last month at the Galen Center.
“I thought overall we played a real quality match,” Cal coach Rich Feller said. “They just played better, and they played better for longer.”
The Bears continued their recent string of strong defensive play, outdiggging the Trojans (20-3, 10-2) 98-96. Sophomore outside hitter Michelle Neumayr added 17 digs, freshman libero Maddy Kerr had 12 and defensive specialist Mary McKennon came up with 10.
USC All-American Natalie Hagglund had an incredible 36 digs for the Trojans.
“She is really, really good,” Vukasovic said. “It’s really frustrating when you really try to hit hard and they dig everything. We have to know we are playing the fourth team in the nation. That is going to happen. We just have to deal with that.”
USC got off to a strong start, taking an 8-2 lead in the first set. But the Bears stormed all the way back to establish a 22-20 lead after a kill by sophomore middle blocker Lillian Schonewise. The Trojans tied it backup at 22-22 and then at 23-23 before closing out the set.
The Bears had the lead for most of the second set but USC eventually tied it at 18-18. After Cal took a 24-20 lead, the Trojans scored three in a row to cut it to one. But Vukasovic evened the match with a service ace.
“She’s one of our better servers,” Feller said. “We want her serving. Getting the ace at game point, that’s just kind of icing on the cake.”
After the Trojans won the third set handily, Cal forced the issue again in the fourth. The Bears trailed by a slim margin for most of the set and the Trojans eventually had a 20-16 advantage. But a kill by Higgins cut the deficit to 23-22, and after the teams traded points, USC was able to finish off the match.
“Our energy was really up at some points and really down at some points,” Vukasovic said. “There were a lot of ups and downs.”
Cal will return to the court Sunday afternoon against UCLA at 3 p.m. at Haas Pavilion. The match will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.