Bears Can't Sustain Hot Start, Fall to Penn State in NCAA Quarterfinals

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With the No. 8 Cal volleyball team up 19-13 on undefeated Penn State in the first set, it looked like the Nittany Lions' NCAA-record 106-set winning streak might finally come to an end.

Four straight Bears attacking errors later, No. 1 Penn State (36-0, 20-0 in the Big 10) had seized Cal's momentum and put an end to both the Bears' hopes of winning the set and their bid to advance to the final four of the NCAA tournament.

The Nittany Lions--a squad that some are calling the greatest team in collegiate women's volleyball history--handed Cal a three-set sweep on Saturday afternoon in the University Park, Penn., regional, thwarting the Bears' effort to avenge their loss to Penn State in last year's semifinals.

"It's about 365 days ago that I had this same press conference. I got to face the press after we lost to Penn State in three," Cal coach Rich Feller said. "I want to stop that cycle right now. We played a great team tonight. I can't be more proud of our team. They played inspired volleyball for quite a bit of that match."

The Bears got off to a quick start, jumping out to a 7-1 lead in the first set.

But after taking two timeouts, the Nittany Lions regrouped and went on a 12-2 run to win the set, a rally spurred by their aggressive serving. They went on to take the match by a tally of 25-21, 25-21, 25-17.

"Our pregame talk before going out there, we were looking in each others' eyes like, 'This is all we have,'" sophomore setter Carli Lloyd said. "There are thousands of people here against us, but it's our half of the court. It was entirely heart at first. It was just us wanting it, to be there with each other."

After dropping the first set, however, the Bears never truly got back into the match. The Nittany Lions stifled Cal offensively, limiting it to a .116 hitting percentage, and no Bears player recorded more than eight kills. Cal also had only six blocks, three of which came in the first set.

"We realized that they were going to send their shots deeper into the court so we moved the defense around a little so we could read it better and picked up some more balls off the block," Nittany Lions setter Roberta Holehouse said. "Also, our blockers adjusted for some other shots that we were able to position ourselves better."

The bright spot for the Bears was senior outside hitter Am'ra Solomon. Solomon attacked at a .375 rate, easily tops for the team on the day. She was given All-Region honors for her efforts in the sweet 16 and quarterfinal matches.

"You can't say enough about Am'ra Solomon," Feller said. "Coming from a redshirt and four years in the program to a fifth-year starter and All-Region and possibly All-American, it's a great story. It's a great finish for her."

The loss to Penn State marks the end of the season for Cal. The Bears finish with an overall record of 26-6, the best in program history.

"I just had faith in our team," Solomon said. "And (Penn State) ended up taking (the match), but I don't think I ever doubted my team. I have strong faith in my team. We're good players."


Contact Katie Dowd at [email protected]

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