BERKELEY, Calif. – Joan Caloiaro’s knack for finding open real estate on a volleyball court never came up bigger.
The Bears’ senior setter bumped the ball over a bunched-up Oregon defense, and the ball dropped in at match point to give Cal’s women’s volleyball team a wildly entertaining 25-13, 27-29, 20-25, 25-20, 15-13 victory over the No. 20 Ducks on Friday night at Haas Pavilion.
Freshman libero Maddy Kerr tied the school record with 33 digs and sophomore middle blocker Lara Vukasovic had career-highs of 17 kills and 10 blocks, as the Bears (12-6, 5-4 Pac-12) overcame an 11-9 deficit in the fifth set to pull off the victory.
With the score 14-13 in the fifth set, Caloiaro chose not to set the ball to a Cal hitter after noticing that Oregon’s Liz Brenner and Lauren Plum were cheating toward the net. Her bump over landed in the right back corner of the court, setting off a wild celebration for the Bears.
“I wanted to shoot it deeper, but it didn’t get that much deeper,” said Caloiaro, who had 57 assists. “I tried to get it in the corner. It just slid in there.”
Caloiaro, who entered the night leading the Pac-12 with 11.78 assists per set, has been effectively judicious in forgoing sets and finding holes on the opponent’s side of the net during her Cal career. Her decision Friday gave the Bears their third win over a ranked team this season and their first five-set victory in three tries.
“It happened so fast,” Cal coach Rich Feller said. “I saw that Oregon was all bunched in. I thought that could work. Then I saw them go to get it, and I thought we would at least get another swing. And then the ball fell, and it was amazing.”
The final point capped off a back-and-forth marathon that featured outstanding defense on both sides. Kerr’s 33 digs equaled the school record set one other time by Jillian Davis against Stanford in 2004. Oregon libero Amanda Benson finished with 31 digs. Both teams eclipsed the century mark in digs, with the Ducks recording 108 and Cal at an even 100.
“That was a good, good win and a good, solid volleyball match,” Feller said. “That was really good volleyball. I was really happy after the third set with just our performance out there, how hard we were playing. We hadn’t really played that well for awhile.
Vukasovic was a dominant force at the net all night. She entered the day ranked fourth in the Pac-12 with a .375 hitting percentage and hit .351 Friday on a career-high 37 attacks. Feller said Vukasovic had an excellent week of practice, and it paid off against the Ducks.
“I really felt pumped because we were really ready for this game,” Vukasovic said. “This was a really important game for us to get back into the top half of the Pac-12.”
The Bears beat the Ducks in every way possible in the first set, outhitting them .353 to minus-.071 and outblocking them 5-1. Cal had a chance to close out the second set as well at 26-25 but Oregon came back to even the match.
The rest of the match was back and forth, as both defenses continued to steal the show before the Bears finally were the last team standing.
“I think this year we are much stronger emotionally than last year and are just taking care of business,” Vukasovic said. “The first set was really fun, but then it got a little stressful on the court. There was a little tension. We just talked about having fun again and playing our game.”
Gehan shared team-high honors in kills with Vukasovic with 17. The senior now has 995 kills in her career, putting her five short of the 1,000-club heading into Sunday afternoon’s home match against Oregon State. The first serve is scheduled for 3 p.m. and will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
Kerr’s performance marked only the 10th time in school history a Cal player has recorded at least 30 digs in a match.