No. 2-Ranked Bears Seek Revenge Against Trojans

Photo: Senior setter Carli Lloyd is only the ninth player in Pac-10 history and the second in program history to pass the 5,000 assist plateau. This season, Lloyd has 812 assists and is also averaging an attacking percentage of .307.
Chris McDermut/File
Senior setter Carli Lloyd is only the ninth player in Pac-10 history and the second in program history to pass the 5,000 assist plateau. This season, Lloyd has 812 assists and is also averaging an attacking percentage of .307.

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Sophomore libero Robin Rostratter dons a blue volleyball helmet whenever she plays. The protective piece is often taunted at opponents' gyms, but she hopes to see more blue helmets tonight as the No. 2 Cal volleyball team battles No. 7 USC (19-3, 8-3) in a revenge match at 7 p.m. at Haas Pavilion.

Rostratter, who suffered a concussion last season after colliding with a teammate, distributed helmets on Wednesday night at a Rally Committee meeting. The team hopes its surprise appearance will bolster enthusiasm for tonight's showdown with the Trojans.

In front of a Southern California crowd, the Bears (20-1, 10-1 in the Pac-10) dropped their lone match of the season by two points in the fifth set. Cal battled back from a 2-0 deficit to prolong the game, but came up short.

"It was our match to lose," sophomore Correy Johnson said. "We're all really gunning for them."

Coach Rich Feller's squad hopes to come out of the gates quickly, which it has struggled to do lately. This past weekend, the Bears started slowly at Oregon State and No. 20 Oregon, though Cal swept both teams.

"I think the team that starts out fresh, starts out pretty good, has got a great advantage because coming from behind against our team or against their team is going to be the more difficult road," Feller said.

Cal's blockers and back row defenders will have to be in peak form to handle defending National Player of the Week Alex Jupiter. Last week, the outside hitter posted 30 kills to lead the Trojans to a tight 3-2 win over No. 11 Washington.

"We will try to manage our block so we can put two big blockers in front of her whenever possible to slow her down or make her change her shot," Feller said.

USC runs a slower attack than the Bears, which Lloyd says gives the team more time to get a solid block up on a kill attempt.

The second-best blocking corps in the country will need extra energy to get them through one of their toughest weekends of the season with another strong attack arriving on Saturday.

The Bears will not have any breathing room as they battle against No. 12 UCLA (17-5, 7-4), a squad that took out then-No. 1 Stanford.

"Having long matches that can go five sets - it's hard for our bodies to handle," senior setter Carli Lloyd said. "But (athletic trainer Linda Smith) is really good at keeping us healthy. We just have to ice-bath and make sure we're getting rehab."

According to the coach, the team has reached the point in the season where fatigue becomes a bigger factor. To try to keep the players healthy, Feller has been limiting the number of swings and jumps they take in practice.

It's not just physical exhaustion the coaches have to guard against.

"This is kind of the part of the season where everyone's starting to feel the stress of school and just playing and pounding a lot," Lloyd said.


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

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