BERKELEY – It its first season ever playing sand volleyball, Cal learns more and more about itself with each passing match. Lately, the Bears have learned that Maddy Kerr and Nikki Gombar form a pretty formidable pair.
Kerr and Gombar, who team up at the No. 3 spot for the Bears, won twice Saturday as Cal split matches with Sacramento State and Cal Poly at the Clark Kerr Sand Courts. The pair have now won four of their past five, with their only loss coming against No. 9 Saint Mary’s.
The Bears fell to Sac State 3-2 on Saturday then came back to defeat Cal Poly 3-2.
“Maddy and Nikki really played as smart and good volleyball as they’ve ever played,” Cal coach Rich Feller said. “Honestly, they were a little resistant to some of the ideas that we had because they’d played different ways before. But I think they’ve bought in, and they are seeing the results and buying in even more. I think things have clicked with them. The light bulb has clicked and they’ve just been doing better and better.”
Kerr and Gombar rolled to straight-set wins in each of their matches Saturday, defeating Sac State’s Chelcy Motes and Lauren Aikels, 21-6, 21-11 and dispatching Cal Poly’s Kate Walters and Hanna Schleis, 21-19, 21-7.
One of the reasons behind the team’s success is the play of Gombar, who is getting healthy after an arduous recovery from shoulder surgery that sidelined her all of last indoor season. The sophomore from Rome, Italy is starting to display her significant athletic talents as she gets stronger and stronger physically.
“This is the athlete that we see,” Feller said. “She’s extremely quick and has good ball control. Obviously, she has a great jump and she has a nice arm when the arm is healthy. It’s still not 100 percent healthy, but we can now see glimpses of the future with her.”
It was also a good day for seniors Adrienne Gehan and Joan Caloiaro, who scored a pair of straight-set wins, one at the No. 1 spot and one at No. 2. Trailing 2-1 to Cal Poly, Gehan and Caloiaro and sophomores Sarah Cole and Lara Vukasovic each notched easy wins to put the Bears over the top. Cole and Vukasovic lost a tough three-setter in the deciding match against the Hornets.
“I’m a little disappointed with the Sac State outcome because I thought we had a great opportunity to win the match, but I’m really, really happy with the overall play,” Feller said. “I think some of the things we’ve been working very, very hard on in practice are starting to show up.”
The Bears (3-5) play their final home match of 2014 against Santa Clara on Friday at 4 p.m.