Cal Blocks North Carolina Out of Tourney

Bears Booked for Sweet 16 Matchup Against Minnesota in Seattle

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The Cal volleyball team is headed to Seattle.

The No. 4 Bears swept North Carolina (25-13, 25-18, 25-18) on Saturday night at Haas Pavilion to advance to the sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

Cal's blocking was the story of the match. The Bears (27-3) totaled 11 blocks, but all of their deflections and tips were just as important in holding the Tar Heels (25-10) to a .085 hitting percentage on the night.

North Carolina coach Joe Sagula was especially impressed by Cal's front line.

"They're big: their pin-blockers, their outsides," Sagula said. "(Tarah) Murrey - we tried not to go against her too often and their right side blocker, Correy Johnson ... they're big. We don't see that much size week after week and it was tough."

Junior outside hitter Murrey notched three blocks, two of which were solo. Senior setter Carli Lloyd and sophomore middle hitter Kat Brown both logged five blocks assisted.

The Tar Heels' Aleksandra Georgieva opened the match with consecutive aces, but it was all down hill from there for North Carolina. The Bears went on a 13-3 run to break open the first set, one which the Tar Heels might want to forget. They finished the first frame with a hitting percentage of .000 - eight kills, eight errors.

Cal's offense was as prolific as North Carolina's was fruitless. The Bears attacked at a .483 rate in the set, and six different Cal players recorded at least one kill.

The second set wasn't much different. The Tar Heels were slightly more competitive, but the Bears continued to dictate tempo offensively and dominate defensively.

"I thought that in sets one and two, we were nearly perfect," Cal coach Rich Feller said. "I'm really pleased with the intensity that our team came out with."

Murrey was her usual unstoppable self. The El Cerrito, Calif. native tallied 13 kills on a .520 hitting percentage in the first two sets, highlighted by two powerful plays.

Late in the first frame, she hit a shot that caused North Carolina libero Kaylie Gibson to dive - perhaps to get out of the way rather than to save it. Early in the second set, Murrey almost took North Carolina outside hitter Suzanne Haydel's face off with another lethal swing.

After the match, Sagula was gushing over Murrey's performance, while the All-Pac-10 team member credited her setter.

"Carli is an awesome setter and she was dishing out some great balls to all of us," Murrey said. "I just go up there and try to be aggressive but smart as well."

On Friday, the Tar Heels clinched their first round victory over Ole Miss with a 25-9 fourth set; but they would have no late match magic on Saturday.

The Bears jumped out ahead of the Tar Heels in the third set with a 12-3 start and held on to stamp their ticket to Seattle next weekend for the regionals. They will face Minnesota on Friday at Washington's Hec Edmundson Pavilion in the semifinals.

Asked about having only one day to prepare for a top team in a single-elimination tournament, Sagula's response said it all about the match.

"I don't know if a few extra days would've made much of a difference," he said.


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

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