Cal Wins First Big Spike at Haas Pavilion Since 2004In Front of a Record-Setting Crowd, Bears Knock Off Stanford in Five Sets
Monday, September 28, 2009
Category: Sports > Fall > Volleyball
When No. 10 Stanford and No. 12 Cal took the floor at Haas Pavilion on Friday night, all eyes were on the Cardinal's Alix Klineman and the Bears' Hana Cutura.
As the two star outside hitters smashed practice kills to the delight of the audience, mild-mannered freshman Correy Johnson quietly took her reps while ex-Stanford great Foluke Akinradewo sat on the sideline delivering instructions to Cardinal players.
Oh, what a difference a year makes.
The recently graduated Akinradewo could only watch as an unassuming Johnson and the rest of the Cal front line dominated the Cardinal, a stark reversal from last year when the Bears had no answer for Akinradewo's power.
Though Cutura once again filled the stat sheet, the Bears received valuable contributions from Johnson and sophomore outside hitter Tarah Murrey in a 3-2 (19-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 15-12) comeback victory over Stanford in front of a volleyball-record crowd of 4,189 at Haas Pavilion.
The first two sets were hardly representative of two of the nation's best teams, as Cal and Stanford combined for 12 service errors.
"I don't think either team played their very best," Cal coach Rich Feller said. "Some of the things that happened were so out of character that we just had to right the ship."
The play eventually improved, and two of the top teams in a loaded conference began trading points in hard-hitting fashion.
Stanford setter-turned-outside-hitter Cassidy Lichtman showcased her versatility, racking up a rare triple-double of 14 kills, 16 assists and 11 digs. Klineman was her usual self with 23 kills, but her service error in the fifth set gave Cal a 12-8 edge.
It looked as if the Cardinal's experience would overcome a younger Bears squad relying heavily on Johnson and fellow freshman Tia Gaffen, but both played key roles in their Pac-10 debuts.
Johnson recorded 10 kills, hit a shockingly high .562 and assisted on three key blocks. Gaffen only played in the last two sets but put home her only kill attempt and assisted on four blocks, helping neutralize Klineman and middle blocker Janet Okogbaa.
"Having a match like we did out of Correy is a huge bonus," Feller said. "She is an unscouted unknown. (Stanford) didn't know what to do with her yet. She was a great weapon."
Johnson was pleased with her performance despite admitting to some pre-game jitters.
"It felt pretty good," she said. "It was really nerve-wracking at first, but things got easy and it was good teamwork."
Feller emphasized the importance of diversifying his team's attack and avoiding an over-reliance on Cutura. Johnson, Tarah Murrey and middle hitter Mindi Wiley assured that Stanford had more to worry about, as four Cal players received double-digit attempts. Three of them garnered double-digit kills.
"I can't emphasize how important (diversifying) was," Feller said. "We definitely look to spread it out and get those percentages as even as we can. (On Friday) we did a better job of that."
Murrey did not offer the surprise element that Johnson did but was a solid second option to Cutura as well as a defensive specialist. She had 14 kills and 11 digs, three of which turned almost-certain Cardinal points into Bears' kills.
"We had some extra boosts of confidence," Murrey said. "When you get those, you feel like you're going to win this game."
Contact Gabriel Baumgaertner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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