Cal Wins First Ever Pac-10 Championship

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After suffering a shocking loss to lowly Arizona State on Wednesday, the Cal volleyball team entered Haas Pavilion on Friday afternoon needing a win to claim a share of its first Pac-10 title in school history.

The loss, which took the No. 2 Bears (25-3, 15-3) out of position of claiming the crown outright, did not seem to rattle the team.

"I don't feel like there's a lot on the line right now," Lloyd said. "It's not like we have this huge thing we have to back up, like we have to do this. We're doing really well this season. We have a chance to win a Pac-10 title ... It's not scary, it's exciting."

With that sense of perspective, Cal handily defeated No. 20 Arizona in four sets (25-14, 25-23, 22-25, 25-21).

The Bears claimed its first ever conference title, but had to share with No. 4 Stanford. Cal defeated the Cardinal twice this season, which gave coach Rich Feller's squad the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

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

The squad's energy on Friday was in stark contrast to the lethargy the Bears displayed against the Sun Devils.

Arizona State (13-18, 7-11) out-blocked the conference's best blocking team, 16-11, en route to their upset of Cal (25-23, 14-25, 20-25, 26-24, 15-7). The Sun Devils slowed outside hitter Tarah Murrey, who finished the night with a meager .176 hitting percentage. The underdogs threw the Bears (25-3, 15-3) out of system for most of the match, which made it difficult for Lloyd to run a more balanced attack.

The Bears were the ones putting up the stops against the Wildcats, posting 14.5 team blocks and holding Arizona to a .170 attack rate.

But the Wildcats (20-11, 9-9) pushed Cal, building early leads and prolonging rallies to make the Bears be crafty to earn their points.

"We had to earn it," Feller said. "We had to struggle a little bit, and dig ourselves out of a few holes. 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?"

Friday's match was Senior Day, honoring both Lloyd and defensive specialist Meagan Schmitt, who will get another chance to play in front of a home crowd in their first round playoff game aganst Utah State.

The Bears, the seventh seed in a field of 64 teams, will host the first two rounds, first taking on the Aggies on Friday at 7 p.m.

While the team celebrated its first conference crown, Lloyd's battalion never lost sight of the ultimate prize - hoisting the NCAA trophy.

"After we just won the Pac-10 championship, we came together and Carli (Lloyd) and Tarah (Murrey) looked at us and they said, 'This is just the beginning. We're going to come in on Monday and we're going to work hard,'" Schmitt said.

"While we just achieved one of our goals, we still have more goals to come in the future, so it isn't over."


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

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