Oct. 29, 2011
BERKELEY - After dropping the first two sets to No. 4 USC, the No. 2 California volleyball team returned to form in set three, but could not mount a big enough comeback. The Golden Bears lost 25-15, 25-17, 25-22 to the Trojans on Saturday night at Haas Pavilion.
Cal drops only its second match of the season at home, falling to 21-4 overall and 11-4 in the Pac-12. USC improves to 18-4 and 13-2 in conference action.
USC out hit the Bears (.319-.147) and out blocked them (9-5) en route to the sweep. With a new season high in kills, Shannon Hawari led the Bears with 14 (4e, 23att), hitting a match-high .435. Elly Barrett dished out 30 assists. Tarah Murrey tallied nine kills for as many points. Both Murrey and Robin Rostratter paced the Bears with 10 digs apiece.
Four Trojans hit above the .500 mark in set one, powering USC to attack .484 and take the first set 25-15. The Bears struggled in set two, hitting .059 while USC hit .258 and led for the entirety of the set. Facing the sweep, Cal made the most of the break between sets two and three to came out firing in the third set.
"I threw down the gauntlet," Cal head coach Rich Feller said of the break. "I admitted to being unsure of who I should start in the third set because it didn't seem like anyone wanted to play hard enough to win. They assured me. They looked in my eyes and told me that they were ready to go out there. They came out and they responded."
The Bears answered back so well that it appeared things were headed to four, if not five sets. In set three, Shannon Hawari hit .833 with five kills, and Cal led for much of the set.
"We were just playing volleyball the way we should play all the time," Feller said of the Bears in set three. "We were loose, having fun, making plays, choosing right times to swing hard and right times to go back and ease up. It just seemed like everyone was playing relaxed and playing the way they're capable of playing.
However, a late resurgence by USC - with Sarah Shaw and Alex Jupiter putting down kills for the final two points - gave the Trojans the 25-22 set three victory and 3-0 match win.
The Bears hit the road for the next two weekends - the first match one day sooner than they normally play, taking on Utah on Thursday. While the week in Berkeley may be short in duration, it will be far from easy.
"We're going to compete in practice," Feller said when asked where he and the Bears have to do after two losses. "We're going to continue our skill work but we'll throw in more competitions - by each position really."
Set One - USC 25, Cal 15:
USC started with a 3-0 lead but the Bears kept things close and were only behind 6-5 thanks to a kill from Shannon Hawari. A 7-1 run by the Women of Troy gave them some breathing room at 13-6. Kat Brown sought to stem the stream of USC points with a kill off an Elly Barrett back set, bringing the scoreboard to 13-8. After three unanswered Trojan points, Brown laced another kill and then went up for a block with Correy Johnson to inch the Bears within six at 16-10. A 7-2 surge by USC - with Cal's lone points coming off Hawari kills - put the Women of Troy ahead 22-13. From there, Cal strung together two points thanks to a dump by Elly Barrett and a tip by Tarah Murrey to come within seven. USC capped things off with three straight scores to take the set, 25-15.
Set Two - USC 25, Cal 17:
The Trojans opened with a 7-2 run before Kat Brown found some empty space on the court for her third kill of the night. Off a bump set from Elly Barrett, Lauren Loerch notched a kill to cut USC's lead to 10-5. A trio of errors by the Women of Troy brought Cal to within six at 14-8. Correy Johnson and Loerch laced back-to-back kills to cut USC's lead to 16-10. Hawari and Tarah Murrey notched two kills apiece down the stretch, but it was not enough to avoid the 25-17 set loss.
Set Three - USC 25, Cal 22:
Cal took its first lead of the night to begin the third stanza thanks to a kill by Tarah Murrey. The Women of Troy then rattled off five unanswered points to lead 5-1. Four USC errors coupled with a Hawari and Higgins block and a kill by Johnson returned the lead to Cal at 7-6. Christina Higgins thrice put the ball right in front of Alex Jupiter, who could do nothing but stare, upping Cal's lead to 8-6, 11-6 and then 12-7. An authoritative kill from the left side by Murrey stopped a 4-1 USC run, distancing her Bears 18-11. The Trojans stormed the Bears with a 12-2 run to lead 23-20. A USC service error and a kill from Hawari brought Cal within one at 23-22, but two kills by USC ended things abruptly 25-22.
Cal hits the road for the first of two consecutive road trips - beginning with the inaugural conference trip to Utah and Colorado. On Thursday, Nov. 3, the Bears make their way to Salt Lake City to play the Utes at 7 p.m. Cal then heads to Boulder, Colo., for a 7 p.m. match on Saturday, Nov. 5.