BOULDER, Colo. – It was going to take an especially mentally tough women’s volleyball team to become the first Pac-12 opponent to complete a road sweep of the Mountain schools this season.
No. 22 Cal fit the blueprint perfectly.
The Bears finished off an impressive week of mental fortitude, coming back after blowing a sizable lead in the first set to defeat Colorado, 26-28, 25-22, 25-23, 28-26 on Saturday night.
Cal indeed became the first Pac-12 team to sweep Utah and Colorado on the road this season. The Bears swept the Utes on Thursday after staving off 14 set points for the victory.
“Nothing is easy in this conference, particularly on the road,” Cal coach Rich Feller said. “This is always a tough place to play. I have to give our team credit again for believing in themselves and being able to push through some adversity.”
Junior opposite hitter Christina Higgins had a career-high 20 kills and senior outside hitter Adrienne Gehan tied her career-high with 22 kills, as the Bears (16-7, 9-5 Pac-12) solidified their hold on sole possession of fourth place in the Pac-12 standings.
Cal got off to a strong start, establishing a 16-9 lead in the first set. But the Buffaloes stormed back and overcame three set points for the Bears to win. But the Bears persevered. After winning the second set, Cal opened up a 23-18 lead in the third. Cal had set point at 24-21 before watching the Buffs score two in a row to trim the deficit to one point. After a Bears timeout, sophomore middle blocker Lillian Schonewise registered a kill to close out the set.
The fourth set was tight throughout. The Bears had three set points before Higgins and sophomore middle blocker Lara Vukasovic closed out the match with a block.
“I feel like we have good experience from other games that were so close earlier this season,” Cal setter Joan Caloiaro said. “That’s helping us now. We’ve been in situations like this before. We just believe that if everyone does their job, then we will come through.”
Higgins eclipsed her previous career-high of 19 kills that she set earlier this season during a win at Washington State while hitting for a .381 percentage.
“She just showed that she can be an offensive power,” Feller said. “She hit some really smart shots.”
Gehan reached 22 kills for the third time in her career and hit for a blistering .436 percentage. She came up with a handful of clutch kills from both the front and back row.
“She had some gutsy swings,” Feller said. “What a leader. She is the consummate leader out there. That really helps the team stay calm.”
Vukasovic added 11 kills and seven blocks and the Bears hit .302 as a team, their highest hitting percentage since Oct. 4 at UCLA.
The Bears return to the court Thursday at Oregon State at 7 p.m.