Bears' Quest for Conference Crown Continues in Washington

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No. 6 USC snapped the Cal volleyball team's home-winning streak last Friday in a 3-1 decision. Tonight at 7 p.m., the No. 4 Bears (21-2, 11-2 in the Pac-10) will look to spoil No. 11 Washington's bid at perfection at Hec Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle, Wash.

The Huskies (18-5) have capitalized on home-court advantage throughout the season, notching big wins against the Trojans in five and No. 10 UCLA in three in the first weekend of October.

"They always have a good crowd," sophomore libero Robin Rostratter said. "It's a good match just based on good competition, let alone they always have a lot of fans."

Coming away with a win in a hostile gym is all about focus, according to middle hitter Kat Brown. In her freshman campaign, Brown tied her season-high in blocks, with eight, in Cal's five-set upset at Washington last season.

"We were just really focused," Brown said. "Hopefully we'll be able to do that in the tough environment there."

Though projected to finish second in the conference, Washington finds itself in fourth place due to its inability to win on the road, having only beaten bottom-feeders Washington State and Oregon State outside of Seattle. The Bears are currently tied with No. 2 Stanford at the top of the standings.

"They're very good; they've just struggled with the top teams in the conference, which is a good thing for us because we're one of the top teams in the conference," coach Rich Feller said. "But we're definitely not overconfident. It's going to be a battle all the way."

Though the first two sets were close in score, the two teams' last meeting was not a tight battle. Cal was firmly in the driver's seat, sweeping the Huskies at Haas Pavilion when they were slotted just a place behind the then-No. 6 Bears.

Cal was able to beat Washington at its own game playing solid defense. The Bears posted 62 digs, a season-high in three-set matches. Cal kept the Huskies' attackers to a .195 hitting percentage, while posting a .288 attack rate of their own en route to a commanding victory.

According to Feller, Washington has not altered their playing style since their last tilt. However, Cal will have to contend with a rejuvenated Lauren Barfield, who was not much of a factor early in the season due to a hand injury. Barfield now stands at second in the Pac-10 in blocks per set.

The Bears lead the Pac-10 in blocking and stand second nationally. The Huskies recently eclipsed Cal in lowest opponent hitting percentage, a testament to both teams' defensive efforts.

"We've been really working on our defense and trying to do whatever it takes to just not give up," Rostratter said. "So hopefully that mentality will transcend to the game, and we'll be able to continue to make our own energy since we're not at home to come out with a win."

Tags: RICH FELLER, CAL VOLLEYBALL, CARLI LLOYD, TARAH MURRAY


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



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