Sun Devils Torch Bears in Upset

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With a chance to clinch at least a share of its first Pac-10 title, the Cal volleyball team was upset by Arizona State, 3-2 (25-23, 14-25, 20-25, 26-24, 15-7), at Haas Pavilion on Wednesday night.

Though standout Tarah Murrey led the team with 21 kills, the outside hitter was frustrated at the net as a sturdy Sun Devil block and tenacious back row relegated her to a .176 hitting percentage.

"They didn't shut her down, but they stopped her, they slowed her down," senior setter Carli Lloyd said. "She's a great outside hitter. For them to do that is really big and I give props to their coaching."

Despite racing out to a 6-2 lead to open the match, the No. 2 Bears (24-3, 14-3 in the Pac-10) looked lethargic from the beginning. Arizona State (13-17, 7-10) rattled off four straight to pull within one, and managed to tie it up at 15 all.

Sophomore opposite side hitter Correy Johnson captured the next point with a kill on a slide, but Cal would not lead the set again. At set point, redshirt sophomore Shannon Hawari drilled a pass coming over the net to pull within one, but the Sun Devils put the next one away to take the set.

The Bears had to scrap to tie the second set at 8, and benefited from many Sun Devil mistakes as Cal went on a 10-4 tear to take control. A resurgence of the Bears' defense helped Cal hold its opponents to 14 points as coach Rich Feller's squad tied the match at 1.

"I feel like in the second set, we came out and we looked like us a little bit," Lloyd said.

After a 3-2 disadvantage, the Bears never trailed the third set, but still were not convincingly in control.

Cal further relinquished the reigns in the fourth set. Despite 14 ties and seven lead changes, the squad did not take a lead down the stretch and instead found itself struggling to manage those ties. With the score tied at 24, the Sun Devils powerfully blocked Murrey and Danic Mendivil earned a kill to string together the two points to force a fifth frame.

"They never went away," Lloyd said. "They covered some balls that were spectacular, and they were blocking better than we've seen any team block this year against us."

Cal, the league leading blocking team, lost the battle at the net, with Arizona State posting five more blocks.

Riding the momentum of the previous set, Arizona State stormed out to a 6-2 lead. Freshman Adrienne Gehan notched one of her 16 kills with a power-packed swing to keep Cal in it, trailing 7-5. The Sun Devils' bench erupted as Cat Highmark and Erica Wilson stuffed Gehan to give Arizona a 9-5 lead. Cal would only score two more points, one of which came on a dump by Lloyd to fight off match point.

"We were making rookie mistakes," Feller said. "I think if we look back at our first Arizona State match, we played much the same way at their place in the beginning of the season. So I think we sort of reverted back to kind of weird, odd things happening, and we let it get to us."

To keep their bid for their first conference crown alive, the Bears must win on Friday when they take on the No. 20 Arizona Wildcats (20-10, 9-8 Pac-10) at Haas Pavilion at noon.


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

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