Burning Loss Lights Fire Under Bears

Photo: Senior middle blocker Mindi Wiley hit .353 and recorded one solo and three assisted blocks in the match against the Cougars. Wiley leads the team with a .391 attack rate.
Emma Lantos/Staff
Senior middle blocker Mindi Wiley hit .353 and recorded one solo and three assisted blocks in the match against the Cougars. Wiley leads the team with a .391 attack rate.

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The Cal locker room was not a fun place to be on Friday night after the volleyball team's 3-0 loss to No. 3 Washington.

"It was a very awkward air. No one was comfortable," senior middle blocker Mindi Wiley said. "And I think that's what we needed. I think we're definitely better from that."

Cal proved that it was better from the loss to the Huskies by handily defeating No. 25 Washington State in straight sets (25-14, 25-19, 25-20) on Saturday afternoon at Haas Pavilion. The victory prevented the No. 15-ranked Bears from starting conference play with a record of 1-4.

"Our defense was a lot better," freshman hitter Correy Johnson said. "We were much more aggressive blocking, much more aggressive going for balls. We didn't let balls drop without effort."

Cal was chronically scrambling against Washington, but on Saturday the Bears looked cool and composed. That improvement began with the service game.

In the first set, junior setter Carli Lloyd facilitated part of a 5-0 run with her serving. Starting with an ace that put the Bears up 15-9, Lloyd's strong serve forced the Cougars (14-3, 3-3 in the Pac-10) out of system, which in turn opened up Cal's offensive options.

The Bears hit .680 in the first set, and ended the match with five different players recording five or more kills.

"We've had a lot of lack of confidence, personally especially, on the serving line and I think (on Saturday) we went off," Wiley said. "We were tired of losing and we made changes. That was one of them."

After picking apart their defense in a pre-game morning film session, the Bears proceeded to pick apart the Cougars' defense in the afternoon. Cal had 41 digs to Washington State's 27 and generally moved faster to the ball than it had the day before. Passing was also much crisper, with fewer shanked balls, which resulted in a .396 hitting percentage for the match.

It was also another good day at the pins for Cal (9-6, 2-3). Senior outside hitter Hana Cutura, who came into the weekend ranked sixth in the nation in kills per set, paced the team yet again with 19 kills and accounted for 20.5 of the Bears' points.

Opposite hitter Johnson continued to add to her already stellar first-year stats with 10 kills in 18 attempts, bringing her season hitting percentage to .308. Some of her success has derived from opposing teams' emphasis on containing Cutura, but Johnson's own natural talents have also made her a poweful contributor to the team.

"She's deceptively fast," coach Rich Feller said. "Teams are setting up a certain way and suddenly, this long, lean arm gets up there and snaps the ball before you can make an adjustment."

The win over the Cougars ended Cal's three-game losing streak, and both Feller and the players looked relaxed after the match. Kicking the losing stretch showed in the Bears' faces immediately postgame, but with 13 games still remaining on the conference schedule, it wasn't a long-lived feeling.

"Every game is just as hard as the last," Wiley said. "There's no time to feel any relief. We're grinding. It's a hard conference. We can't take a break for a second. We've got to get ready for Oregon."


Contact Katie Dowd at [email protected]

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