Bears Bury Gaels to End Preseason

Photo: Adrienne Gehan and Shannon Hawari registered six kills each against St. Mary's on Saturday. Cal swept the Gaels to maintain its undefeated record heading into Pac-10 play.
Shannon Hamilton/Photo
Adrienne Gehan and Shannon Hawari registered six kills each against St. Mary's on Saturday. Cal swept the Gaels to maintain its undefeated record heading into Pac-10 play.

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MORAGA, Calif. - In its first eight games, the Cal volleyball team's play drastically varied between sets. In their two tilts this weekend, however, the No. 10 Bears' play varied between matches.

On Friday at War Memorial Gym in San Francisco, Cal (10-0) looked like the unfocused squad that has shown up frequently in the second set of matches. This time, the team's lackluster play finally resulted in a dropped set.

San Francisco (1-9) capitalized on the Bears' errors - hitting, serving, and receiving - to snap Cal's 24-set winning streak in the first frame.

"It was kind of like a wake-up call," sophomore Correy Johnson said. "We really need to start playing our game and not play down (to our opponents)."

The Bears won the next three sets, the final offering a glimpse of the team that would take the court the next night at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, Calif.

Against No. 25 St. Mary's, Cal was the doggedly determined team it usually is in the first and third sets of matches. On Saturday, that steadiness stretched from beginning to end.

"We can play pretty darn consistent volleyball for about an hour and a half straight," coach Rich Feller said. "Our serving and passing tonight was as good as it has been all year."

The Bears' near-perfect serving night allowed for better defense, Feller said, which was evident in Cal's 50 digs on the night. Senior setter Carli Lloyd praised the passing, which allowed for better attacking opportunities and sustained many long rallies.

After multiple ties and lead changes, the Bears took control of the first set when Lloyd stretched to save a pass headed over the net, and delivered a quick ball to sophomore Kat Brown. The middle hitter hammered it straight to the floor for a 21-18 advantage that would build to a 25-18 victory.

The scrappy Gaels (7-5) set the pace for most of the second set, but the tide turned once it was knotted up at 20-20. The stage was set when Brown's kill attempt was controversially ruled out, with Cal arguing that it deflected off a St. Mary's blocker.

Junior outside hitter Tarah Murrey took matters out of the officials' hands, drilling the ball down the middle of the court with a vengeance, which propelled a 25-22 set victory.

"I was proud of our ability to fight back and to control each play and just play as a team," Lloyd said. "It's really good to play teams like (St. Mary's) early because they're not going to go away, they're going to keep coming back."

Though the Gaels battled, the Bears were too strong in the third. A nine-point Cal run proved insurmountable, and Feller's squad earned the sweep and a perfect preseason record.

"The first thing I said to the girls (after the match) was 'Pac-10s are here. We're ready for it,'" Lloyd said.


Christina Jones covers volleyball. Contact her at [email protected]

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