LOS ANGELES – USC’s women’s volleyball team is ranked No. 2 in the nation.
In other words, Cal is doing pretty well for itself.
The Bears stretched the Trojans to the limit on Sunday before finally falling in a five-set thriller, 28-26, 22-25, 25-11, 18-25, 15-13 in front of 1,976 at the Galen Center.
Cal trailed the fifth set 1-9 before scoring four points in a row to tie it up. But USC notched the final two points of the match to close it out.
“It’s very encouraging,” Cal coach Rich Feller said. “To get as close as we were with USC is a real confidence boost for us. It’s something out players can take home with them and believe that this is how good we can be.”
Senior outside hitter Adrienne Gehan had a career-high 22 kills on a career-high 63 attempts while junior opposite hitter Christina Higgins added 15 kills at a .345 percentage. Sophomore middle blocker Lillian Schonewise contributed 11 kills and sophomore middle blocker Lara Vukasovic added 10 kills and six blocks.
“We did a lot of things really well,” said Gehan, who also had 12 digs and four blocks. “I thought overall we played a really consistent game. There are definitely some things we need to clean up, but overall I’m happy with how we played.”
The Bears, who fought off two set points against them in each of the first two sets during their sweep of No. 16 UCLA on Friday night, turned back two more USC set points in the first set Sunday before having a set point themselves at 26-25. But the Trojans scored the final three points to close out the set.
The second set was tied at 13-13 before Cal (9-4, 2-2 Pac-12) six of the next nine points to establish some breathing room. USC never got closer than two points the rest of the set.
The Trojans (14-1, 4-0) elevated their play in the third set and rolled easily. But the Bears, exhibiting a mental toughness that is quickly becoming a benchmark of the 2013 season, bounced back to easily win the fourth set.
USC began the fifth set strongly, taking a 4-1 lead and ultimately leading 10-5. But after the Trojans led 13-9, Cal scored four straight points to tie the set at 13-13. Higgins had three straight kills to fuel the comeback.
After the Trojans called timeout, USC middle blocker Alexis Olgard came up with a kill and the Trojans registered a block to end the match.
“We know we can come back,” Feller said. “It’s a credit to them that they stuck with it and played harder. We have to be sure to continue to play at that level.”
Overall, the Bears won five of the eight sets they played while splitting matches against two ranked teams over the weekend. The Bears now have just two days off before hosting Colorado on Wednesday at Haas Pavilion. The match begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
“We have to make sure that we understand this is the level we expect to play from here on out,” Feller said. “No matter what the name on the other team’s jersey is, we expect to play at that level and not let the opponent’s level dictate how we play.”