Oct. 28, 2012
BERKELEY, Calif. - Volleyball arguably features more wild momentum swings than any sport, and that back-and-forth was certainly on display Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately for Cal, Arizona State seized the momentum for one more point than the Bears.
The Sun Devils pulled out a thrilling 25-23, 23-25, 25-18, 13-25, 16-14 Pac-12 victory at Haas Pavilion, ending the match on a kill by outside hitter Erica Wilson. After losing just once to ASU since 2002, the Sun Devils swept the season series from the Bears this season.
The loss dropped Cal's record to 11-11, 5-7 in conference play. Arizona St. improved to 15-10, 4-8 in the Pac-12.
"Right now, we're a .500 team. We win some, we lose some. We make some great plays and we make some not-so-great plays," Cal coach Rich Feller said. "All of those things factor in every single time, and it can go both ways. When the momentum was in our favor, we really played great. When it wasn't in our favor, you start thinking maybe you have to do a little extra or that the other person has it. It definitely affects the flow of the game."
Senior middle hitter Shannon Hawari arguably had the best match of her career, registering career-highs of 18 kills and 12 blocks. She also hit for a .500 percentage. She had five kills and four blocks alone in the fourth set to help even the match and force the decider.
"Unfortunately, she can't do it alone," Feller said. "She just keeps working hard. She's a great example of what it takes, regardless of the score, of working that hard."
Senior opposite hitter Correy Johnson added 14 kills and nine blocks for the Bears while sophomore outside hitter Christina Higgins had 12 kills and four blocks.
Wilson and freshman Macey Gardner led the Sun Devils (15-10, 4-8 Pac-12) with 23 kills apiece. Gardner entered the day leading the Pac-12 in kills.
The shifts in momentum started at the outset, when the Bears raced out to a 10-2 lead. But Arizona St. gradually whittled away at the deficit and ultimately tied it at 19-19 on a kill by Wilson. A block by Joan Caloiaro and Kat Brown kept the scored tied at 23-23, but a kill by Gardner and a hitting error by Higgins closed out the set.
The Bears once again staked a lead in the second set, establishing a 13-8 advantage after a kill by Johnson. But the Sun Devils again fought back, tying it at 19-19 again after a kill by Nora Tuioti-Mariner. The teams traded points until it was 23-23, but Johnson and Hawari came up with a big block on Gardner to force set point. A kill by junior outside hitter Adrienne Gehan, playing the front row for the first time since injuring her knee on Oct. 3, ended the set with a kill.
The Sun Devils had all the momentum after winning the third set handily, but suddenly ASU had no answer for the Bears in the fourth set. Cal jumped out to a 5-1 lead and extended to 14-6. After a Sun Devils point, Cal scored six in a row to assume a commanding 20-7 advantage. The Bears rolled to capture the set.
A block by Brown and Johnson, a kill by freshman outside hitter Nikki Gombar and a hitting error from Wilson gave the Bears a 3-0 lead to begin the fifth set. But then came another momentum swing, with the Sun Devils battling back to lead 8-7. ASU extended the advantage to 11-8, but two kills and a block by Hawari tied it at 11-11.The teams alternated points until it was 14-14, when ASU put together the winning sequence.
"Game 1, if that was ours, we close them out," Feller said. "We would have so much confidence and that momentum can work for us the rest of the match. I have to look back at the tape, but I think we started getting tentative. I think we started playing careful and we didn't hit our shots."
Cal returns to the court Friday for a match at No. 3 Oregon at 6 p.m. The match will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.