Bears Still Learning After Weekend Sweep

Photo: Correy Johnson led the Cal volleyball team with 11 blocks in the team's two victories this past weekend. The sophomore may be the most critical part of Cal's net defense this year.
Nick Fradkin/File
Correy Johnson led the Cal volleyball team with 11 blocks in the team's two victories this past weekend. The sophomore may be the most critical part of Cal's net defense this year.

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At first glance, it wouldn't seem like the No. 11 Cal volleyball team would learn much from a 3-0 victory.

But Friday's match against UC Santa Barbara put the Bears to the test in their season opener.

"We need to have challenges wherever we can," head coach Rich Feller said. "For us to not just cruise through as easily (it) was a good thing to make us push a little bit harder, make us go and reach back."

Cal (2-0) sailed through the first two sets, but ran into choppy waters in the third. The Bears committed almost twice as many errors in the third set alone as they did in the first two combined, which led to a 10-18 deficit.

"We had like a seven point streak where we went seven points and we shanked a bunch of the (passes)," senior setter Carli Lloyd said. "That was us kind of not being mindful of what was going on in the game, so obviously (we learned) that serving and passing is very important."

With all the momentum on the Gauchos' side, the match seemed destined for a fourth set. But Cal's veteran leadership had another finish in mind.

"I didn't have a doubt in my mind that we'd win that set," Lloyd said, "but I was looking around thinking, 'Some of these girls are freshmen so how are they going to react?'"

The Bears narrowed the score to 21-22 and from then on, it was back and forth. Cal finally pulled through at 26-26 with the help of sophomore middle hitter Shannon Hawari. In her first match back after missing almost all of 2009 with a leg injury, Hawari decided the match with two straight kills.

Murrey Has a Killer First Weekend

Tarah Murrey was a respectable hitter last season, logging the second most kills and blocks, which earned her a spot on the Pac-10 all-conference honorable mention team.

With the graduation of standout outside hitter Hana Cutura, Murrey steps into a much larger role on the team this season.

"I feel like I am going to step up to the challenge," Murrey said. "I love challenges and I'm going to play my best and work hard."

The El Cerrito, Calif., native stepped in nicely as the clear go-to hitter during the Bears' first two matches.

Over the first two matches, Murrey overpowered defenses with 32 kills, and flashed her defensive skills with 17 digs. When the Bears had to play out of system, Lloyd relied on Murrey even when the outside hitter was in the back row, which saved many rallies for Cal.

Her dominant performance warranted selection as the Cal Molten Classic MVP, as well as the title of Muscle Milk California Student-Athlete of the Week.

Senior setter Carli Lloyd appreciated the strength of Murrey's swings, while coach Rich Feller took note of her accuracy. Murrey had only one hitting error on Saturday against Manhattan College, a statistic Feller said was a key improvement from last season.

Murrery has also stepped into a leadership role this year, often infusing her teaching moments with humor. which she finds effective.

In a match over the weekend, sophomore Correy Johnson hit the ball quickly back over the net after a block.

Though the Bears won the point, Murwent over to Johnson after the play and said, "Correy, if that would've happened in Pac-10, you would've gotten domed."


Contact Christina Jones and Jonathan Kuperberg at [email protected]

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