Bears Claw Through Cardinal, Seize First Place in Pac-10

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The No. 4 Cal volleyball team defeated No. 2 Stanford in four sets (26-28, 25-17, 25-17, 25-20) on Friday night at Haas Pavilion.

The win marks the first time in 31 years that the Bears (24-2, 14-2 in the Pac-10) swept the season series with the Cardinal (22-3, 13-3). Cal needs only to win one of its remaining two matches to claim its first Pac-10 championship in the program's history.

"I just don't think we really gave them a chance," senior setter Carli Lloyd said. "That's what you have to do to win matches. You can't let teams have control. And we held them to that."

The match opened with a 6-1 Bears run, but Stanford battled back to claim the first set behind a .450 hitting percentage. Nevertheless, Cal coach Rich Feller never once doubted his squad.

"After the first set, I knew we were going to win," Feller said. "I felt like we were kind of in control I thought we were going to make the right adjustments as the match wore on, and it certainly showed that we did."

The Bears' defense certainly adjusted. Stanford, the best hitting team in the country, finished with a paltry .205 hitting percentage. Cal finished with 11 more digs and eight more blocks than the Cardinal.

The Bears scored five of the first six points in the second and third sets. Unlike the first set, however, Stanford did not come back from Cal's fast start.

The final frame was close until back-to-back kills by sophomore middle hitter Kat Brown and junior outside hitter Tarah Murrey propelled the Bears to a 6-2 run that broke open the set.

It seemed fitting that Murrey, whom the Cardinal had no answer for all night long, spiked the ball down for the final point of the match.

The junior notched 24 kills and, when hitting in system from the front row, was almost unstoppable. Early in the second set, Murrey hit a laser that almost took off Stanford libero Gabi Ailes' head.

"She did a damn good job," said Lloyd, who finished with 56 assists.

Murrey, the country's third leading assassin, did not have to carry the load for the offense, though. Freshman outside hitter Adrienne Gehan and sophomore middle hitter Corey Johnson both registered 12 kills. All of the Bears' main hitters finished with hitting percentages near or above .300.

"That's a big indicator that we passed well because we got our middles going early and it made their block have to guess and see," Lloyd said. "It's not really me. It's them putting me into system and a position where I can get everyone a ball."


Jonathan Kuperberg covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]

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