BERKELEY – Cal’s Adrienne Gehan is a self-proclaimed master of calm, so you knew just how pivotal two crucial plays she made in the fifth set were Sunday in the No. 22 Bears’ five-set win over UCLA.
Gehan’s monster kill followed by a solo block gave Cal a three-point advantage in the fifth, and the Bears went on to a 17-25, 26-24, 26-24, 18-25, 15-12 victory at Haas Pavilion. Gehan’s kill and block were followed by a fiery display of emotion not usually seen from Cal’s senior.
“I wanted to win,” Gehan said. “In any game five, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s anyone’s game. It’s whoever is on for just a few points. That’s all it is. I knew that was going to be us. After those two points, I knew it would be ours. I was so relieved and happy and excited.”
After a kill by junior opposite hitter Christina Higgins broke a 9-9 tie in the fifth, Gehan crushed a kill off a UCLA defender and then stuffed a kill attempt by UCLA outside Kelly Reeves. That gave the Bears a 12-9 cushion. The point ended on a foot fault by UCLA’s Mariana Aquino.
Gehan finished with 16 kills, 13 digs and five blocks.
“That was pretty big,” said Cal coach Rich Feller, who moved to within four wins of the 600-mark for his career. “She doesn’t get real high or real low, but the kill was a huge monster kill and that one-on-one block against Reeves was big. That’s a pretty big match for her and a pretty big match for us.”
The win allowed the Bears (14-7, 7-5 Pac-12) to complete a season-sweep of the Bruins for just the third time in school history.
Higgins finished with 14 kills and five blocks while sophomore middle blocker Lillian Schonewise added 11 kills and five blocks. Freshman libero Maddy Kerr had 29 digs.
Like the Bears’ win over the Bruins in October – Cal’s first sweep ever at Pauley Pavilion – most of the sets were close. The Bears won two of its three sets in the first matchup against UCLA by two points. That was the margin of victory for the first two sets Cal won Sunday. Each time, the Bruins had set point at 24-23 but couldn’t close it out.
In the second set, a UCLA service error helped even the set at 24-24. After a Bruins hitting error gave the Bears set point, Higgins closed it out with a kill.
In the third, a UCLA hitting error tied it up, and after a kill by sophomore middle blocker Lara Vukasovic, another Bruins hitting error closed the set.
“Both teams had their share or playing not very high-level volleyball and both teams had their share of playing extremely high-level volleyball,” Feller said. “I give a lot of kudos to both teams for fighting hard to the very end, particularly our team to live up to the motto of play harder for longer. That’s really what I thought we did. We made some really big plays down the stretch and it made the difference in game five. I give a lot of credit to the players on our team to stick with it, knowing they weren’t playing their best but still working hard to make it better every play.”
The Bears also got a strong contribution from sophomore outside hitter Michelle Neumayr, who had one of her most efficient offensive nights of the season. Neumayr had nine kills at a .409 hitting percentage. She also added nine digs. Neumayr is playing her first season for the Bears after sitting out the last two years with knee injuries.
“That’s a big night for her,” Feller said. “I’m looking forward to many more like that. I think that’s what she is capable of. She’s getting stronger. This is her first year of really playing at the college level. She’s still learning things.”
The Bears will next face Utah in Salt Lake City on Thursday at 7 p.m. PT. The match will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.