Cal senior Christina Higgins shakes hands with VBC Cheseaux's captain before the match.
Cal Athletics

Bears Come Back To Defeat Swiss Pro Team

Cal Takes First Match Of European Tour In Five Sets
By Cal Athletics on Mon, May 26, 2014

CHESEAUX, Switzerland – There is no conference race or NCAA Tournament resume to build, but that didn’t stop Cal’s volleyball team from getting its competitive juices flowing Monday night.

The Bears came back from two sets down to defeat VBC Cheseaux – a first division pro team – 21-25, 28-30, 25-11, 25-16, 15-13 in the first match of their 2014 Summer European Tour.

Junior middle blocker Lillian Schonewise led Cal with 13 kills and six blocks while hitting for a .550 percentage. Senior opposite hitter Christina Higgins added 10 kills.

“You can’t put us out there and not expect us to be competitive,” Schonewise said. “It doesn’t matter who is on the other side, whether it’s a Pac-12 team or a team that doesn’t speak English. We’re always going to give it our best shot.”

Monday marked the first of six matches the Bears will play during their two-week, five-city tour that will also take them to two cities in Italy along with Maribor, Slovenia and Zagreb, Croatia. Cal will face various pro and national teams during its travels.

After arriving in Switzerland on Sunday afternoon, the Bears held a morning practice Monday at a local elementary school while mixing in some sightseeing during their free time. Cal is staying in Montreux, about 20 miles east of Cheseaux. Montreux is the home of the VolleyMasters, an annual international tournament featuring some of the top national teams in the world. The tournament opens Tuesday and the Bears will watch some of the action, including the United States’ match against Germany.

The Bears admittedly didn’t know what to expect from themselves Monday, as they were still shaking off jetlag and playing an unknown opponent in an environment completely new. The match took place at Omnisports Derriere-La-Ville, home of VBC Chesaux that featured a vocal crowd, including a small group of fans chanting and beating a drum throughout the evening.

“We knew coming in it was going to be different,” Schonewise said. “We didn’t really know what to expect. We showed up late and had 30 minutes to get ready. But we made the most of it. It took us a little bit to get into our rhythm, but once we got settled in was normal volleyball. It was fun.”

Cal coach Rich Feller went with a predetermined playing rotation, alternating different players each set. Incoming freshman Laura Leap, who enrolled for the spring semester, played two of the five sets, as did sophomore defensive specialist Sabrina Blackwell, who saw her first action in a Cal uniform.

Sophomore Maddy Kerr, who was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team last season, alternated with junior Mary McKennon at Libero.

“There’s just nothing better to get out there and dip our toes in the water,” Feller said. “I’m really happy. We got to play everyone. I thought it was a well-played first match off the airplane, with jetlag and all that.”

Sophomore middle blocker Jenelle Jordan added nine kills at a .412 hitting percentage while Kerr had 10 digs.

The Bears erased a 12-6 deficit in the fifth by scoring six points in a row, including five in succession behind the serving of junior outside hitter Nikki Gombar, who missed last season with a shoulder injury. Schonewise, who is usually replaced by the libero to serve in Cal’s rotation, closed the match with an ace. The libero is forbidden to serve under international rules.

“At 12-6, I basically said I just wanted to go out of here with our heads up,” Feller said. “If we score point-for-point and lose 15-9, I’m going to be OK with that as long as we give it our all and don’t give them any free points. Then we go on a 6-0 run and it was like, ‘OK, let’s win.’”

The Bears will spend most of Tuesday sightseeing in Montreux before attending the VolleyMasters in the evening. Then it will be off to Milan, Italy, where Cal will play two matches against the Italian Junior National Team.

Follow the Bears’ journey on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Use the hashtag #EuroBears to find content.



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