Sept. 30, 2012
TUCSON, Ariz. - Practice may not have made perfect for the Cal women's volleyball team Sunday, but it did wonders for turning the Bears fortunes around.
Coming off one of their most spirited, competitive practices of the season Saturday, the Bears took it to the Arizona Wildcats on Sunday with a 22-25, 25-13, 25-20, 25-14 Pac-12 Conference victory at the McKale Center. The win helped Cal forget about a disappointing three-set loss at Arizona State on Friday and gives the Bears confidence heading into Wednesday's showdown against No. 2 Oregon.
"We were pretty down after we lost to Arizona State," said Cal middle hitter Kat Brown, who had a season-high nine kills and hit for a .562 percentage. "We knew we had to compete a lot better. I think yesterday's practice carried over to today."
After Friday's loss, Cal coach Rich Feller decided to tweak the offense, going with higher sets to play to the strengths of the Bears' hitters. Sophomore Christina Higgins capitalized, registering 10 kills at a season-high .714 percentage. Opposite Correy Johnson led Cal with 15 kills and hit .583.
"We hit a super low on Friday," Feller said. "We played as a team today, we hustled, and we haven't had that. We can certainly build off the momentum from this match. We showed what we can do with hard work and just doing your job."
Even though they lost the first set, in many ways the Bears outplayed the Wildcats. Tough serving by middle hitter Shannon Hawari helped Cal establish a 21-15 lead, but the Bears had its only passing breakdown of the day and it allowed the Wildcats to score nine consecutive points.
But it was all Cal after that. Freshman outside hitter Nikki Gombar served seven straight points early in the second set to give the Bears an 8-1 advantage. The Bears extended the lead to 12-2 and remained in control the rest of the way.
Arizona kept it close through the first half of the third set, but the Bears gradually built an 18-13 advantage. The Wildcats scored back-to-back points to cut Cal's lead to 24-20, but Adrienne Gehan's kill closed out the set.
Defensive specialist Marlee Davis, who along with setter Joan Caloiaro had two aces, served strongly the entire match. Her five-point service run in the fourth set gave the Bears an 8-3 lead, and Cal extended the bulge to 15-6 on an ace by Caloiaro. A couple of Arizona hitting errors gave the Bears a 21-10 advantage and they easily went on to finish off the match.
Brown added five blocks and five digs. Gehan and Hawari each added nine kills while Hawari also had four blocks. As a team, the Bears hit .364, their second-highest clip of the season.
"I think it was really important for us to get the win, for our record but mostly for our confidence and our mentality," Brown said. "We improved today. I think this will be good for us moving forward. We know how it feels to play well."
The win improves Cal's record to 8-6, 2-2 in Pac-12 play. After playing 10 of their first 14 matches on the road, Cal now returns home for four matches at Haas Pavilion, beginning Wednesday against the Ducks. The match begins at 7 p.m. and airs on the Pac-12 Networks.