OMAHA, Neb. – Cal’s volleyball team has successfully passed the first big test in demonstrating the uneven 2012 season was simply an aberration.
The Bears notched a landmark win Saturday night, defeating No. 19 Creighton in the championship match of the Bluejay Invitational, 26-24, 25-21, 25-14 in front of a crowd of 1,168 at D.J. Sokol Arena. Cal is now 5-0 and has yet to drop a set this season.
The Bears went 15-16 last season in a year that was plagued by a rash of injuries, dropping out of the national rankings for the first time in 2002. But Cal, who received votes in last week’s AVCA Top 25, should rack up a significant amount of more votes next week.
“I think they might feel like a small corner has been turned and this is the kind of team that can compete at a high level,” Cal coach Rich Feller said. “I think they see a little glimmer. Last year was hit or miss. It’s very gratifying to play a team that’s big and that’s good and that’s at home.”
The Bears dismantled the Bluejays (4-1) with pinpoint passing and defense while exhibiting a solid block. The superior ball control allowed Cal to hit for a .339 percentage, led by senior Adrienne Gehan’s 18 kills at a .378 clip. Junior Christina Higgins added 10 kills and four blocks while sophomore middle blocker Lara Vukasovic added nine kills at a .471 percentage.
“We’ve been passing a lot during the preseason and it’s really helping,” Cal outside hitter Michelle Neumayr said. “We just have so many offensive weapons. It’s nice to be able to get everyone the ball.”
The Bluejays had lost just one home match since the beginning of the 2012 season and had already knocked off then-No. 13 BYU this season. The Bears beat Northern Colorado in three sets earlier in the day to advance to the championship match.
The Bears took a 13-6 lead in the first set but Creighton came back to tie it at 24-24. Back-to-back kills by Neumayr and Lillian Schonewise closed it out. Cal established breathing room again in the second set, 18-12. Creighton got to within 22-20 but the Bears held on.
With the score 19-13 in the third set, freshman libero Maddy Kerr served six straight points to put Cal on the cusp of the win. A kill by Higgins closed things out.
“We did a really good job of just staying calm and always feeling like we were in control,” Neumayr said. “There was never a frantic, panicked attitude. Everyone stayed really calm.”
Gehan was named the tournament most valuable player, the second straight week she’s earned MVP honors of a tourney. She was also selected as the MVP off last weekend’s Cal Molten Classic.
Vukasovic and setter Joan Caloiaro were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Gehan had nine kills and 11 digs in the Bears’ 25-14, 25-16, 25-16 win over Northern Colorado. Cal also registered 13 blocks.