BEARS WIN FIRST EVER PAC-10 CHAMPIONSHIP

Bears Knock Off Wildcats to Claim Share of First Ever Conference Title.

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After being upset by Arizona State on Wednesday, the Cal volleyball team rebounded on Friday afternoon to defeat No. 20 Arizona in four sets, (25-14, 25-23, 22-25, 25-21).

In the last conference match of the season, the No. 2 Bears clinched at least a share of their first Pac-10 title in front of 1,034 at Haas Pavilion. Cal needs the Sun Devils to pull out another stunner to beat No. 4 Stanford tonight for the Bears to claim the title outright; otherwise, the two Bay Area teams will be named Co-Champions.

Having beat Stanford twice this year, Cal holds the tiebreak, but that only is used to determine which team secures the automatic NCAA Tournament bid. The regions and seeding will be announced on Sunday afternoon at noon with coverage on ESPNews.

The Bears came out of the gates hot, forcing a Wildcat timeout just ten points into the match with a 7-3 Cal advantage. Arizona managed only one point before calling its next timeout, and that came on a Correy Johnson service error. With back-to-back blocks solo by outside hitter Tarah Murrey and setter Carli Lloyd, the Bears were leading 11-5.

En route to a first set victory, Cal held the Wildcats to a -.026 hitting percentage behind four blocks. Murrey, ordinarily Lloyd's weapon of choice, posted the lowest rate of all Bear hitters with .091, but the offense did not sputter due to a balanced attack.

"Today, out here, you could tell in everyone's eyes that they were there in that moment, playing in that moment," Lloyd said.

Three straight Cal errors gave Arizona a 6-3 lead in the second, which the Wildcats extended to 12-7 on a block on freshman Adrienne Gehan. The Bears managed to knot up the score at 15, and Murrey angled an attempt to the floor for a 21-18 Cal edge.

Tied at 23, all three Bears in the front row Johnson, Shannon Hawari and Murrey got credit for a big block in the middle to set up set point for Cal, 24-23. Lloyd teed it up for Hawari, who slammed it to the floor to put Cal up 2-0 in the match. The Bears, who stand third nationally in blocks, logged 14.5 stops on the afternoon.

Arizona emerged from the locker room minutes before the Bears, and once play resumed, the Wildcats raced out to a 5-1 lead.

On an afternoon that saw many setter dumps, Lloyd asserted her supremacy at the technique. After Arizona setter Paige Weber attempted it and Cal recovered, Lloyd who finished with eight kills to go along with her 49 assists directed the ball to the floor. With the point, the score was tied at 18 to cap off four unanswered Cal points.

In the face of defeat, Arizona's Whitney Dosty came out swinging in the third, putting up 13 of her match-high 30 kills. The hot-handed opposite side hitter broke a 20-all tie with a kill through the Cal block, and forced a fourth set with a laser shot.

"She's got a heck of an arm," Lloyd said. "She definitely played a good match, but you have to have everyone on your team playing really good to win, and it was kind of at spurts for them."

Yet again Arizona stormed out to a 6-3 lead, but the Bears to string together three consecutive points to tie. From that point, neither team held a two-point advantage until Murrey went up for back-to-back kills for a 15-13 Cal edge. After a Courtney Karst ball dropped in the back corner, Hawari and Johnson put two away for the Bears, forcing an Arizona timeout.

The Wildcats rallied to narrow the score 20-19, but Murrey responded with a kill, which was followed by two Arizona attack errors. Murrey tooled one off the block to force match point, which Hawari slammed to the floor for the win and the championship.

"We had to struggle a little bit, and dig ourselves out of a few holes," Feller said. "That made today even more worth it because we had to fight."

"To win it on the last day of conference (play), what's better than that?"

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


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



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