Bears Chop Down Cardinal in Four Sets at Maples

Photo: Carli Lloyd topped 5,000 career assists in Friday's win. The senior also moved to ninth on Cal's all-time block list with four against Stanford.
Chris McDermut/Photo
Carli Lloyd topped 5,000 career assists in Friday's win. The senior also moved to ninth on Cal's all-time block list with four against Stanford.

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Regardless of the opponent, the Cal volleyball team simply needs to "play Cal volleyball" to win.

That's what senior setter Carli Lloyd told her team after dropping the first set at Maples Pavilion on Friday night.

It didn't matter that Pac-10 kill leader Alix Klineman registered 22 kills or that Stanford won the first set despite six service errors - the No. 5 Bears (18-1, 8-1 in the Pac-10) focused on their own play and handily upset No. 2 Stanford, 3-1 (21-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-16).

The highly anticipated battle for first place in the Pac-10 featured the conference's best offense (Stanford) against the top defense (Cal).

At night's end, Cal led the Cardinal (16-2, 7-2) in every major category, save aces. The Bears had more kills, fewer errors, a better hitting percentage, more assists, more digs and more blocks.

After the first set, coach Rich Feller tweaked the lineup a bit to slow Klineman down and allow Cal to serve to the Cardinal's weaker areas on the court. That switch, along with the return to focus on their side of the net, allowed the Bears to pull off the upset.

"For a while we were just trying to stop them," Lloyd said. "We just needed to attack."

With the score tied at 11 in the second set, Cal rattled off a seven-point run to give it its first surge of the match.

Outside hitters Tarah Murrey and Adrienne Gehan earned their kills through the massive Stanford block. Neither registered a hitting error in the set, combining for 11 kills to help the Bears tie the match at one.

"Once we really focus on team and our side, no one can stop us," Murrey said.

Murrey and Klineman are two of the country's top hitters, and led their teams with 21 and 22 kills, respectively.

The greater difference, however, was shown in the hitting percentage. Klineman posted a .266, while Murrey countered with a .281. Klineman's lower numbers can be attributed to the effective Cal blocking.

Sophomore middle hitter Kat Brown was a part of each of Cal's blocks through the first three sets. She and Lloyd particularly vexed the Cardinal attackers. In one rally, the tandem stopped three straight attempts, forcing Stanford setter Cassidy Lichtman to redirect her offense.

After a lopsided Cal win the second frame, Stanford jumped out to a 12-6 advantage in the third, but Cal rallied to tie it at 16.

Gehan, libero Robin Rostratter and freshman defensive specialist Erin Freeman surprised with seamless defense in the back row, to outlast the Cardinal in the long rallies.

"Erin and Adrienne (Gehan) they were digging balls like no other," Lloyd said. "(Erin) was all over the court. And you could tell in her eyes, like, 'I'm here. I'm fine.'"

The Bears took a 24-20 advantage behind three Murrey kills and one from redshirt sophomore Shannon Hawari off a quick set. Stanford fought set point off twice, but Lloyd went back to the middle hitter for a slam to put the third set away for the Bears.

"Every time Stanford gave us a little push, we pushed back a little bit harder," Feller said. "I think we frustrated them a little bit. They're not used to that."

The Cardinal also aren't used to trailing Cal in the conference standings.

As the Bears celebrated Hawari's kill, Lloyd yelled, "One more!" to her team. One more set and Cal would stand atop the Pac-10. Alone.

The Bears led for all of the fourth set, excluding one tie at seven.

A block by Hawari and Lloyd on Klineman gave Cal the lead for good, taking the set convincingly, 25-16, to claim the momentous road victory.

"It's kind of historic," Feller said. "I don't think Cal has ever been in first place in the Pac-10 halfway through the season ... It also means that the target on our back just got bigger."

"That's the thing about our team we have a lot of effort to give, it's just can you pull it from us all the time?" Lloyd said. "And tonight it was there."


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

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