Bears Snag Sweet Sixteen Sweep Over Minnesota

A second set comeback propels Cal to its fourth straight NCAA Regional Final.

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SEATTLE, Wash. - The Cal volleyball team is one of the two teams in the NCAA tournament to not drop a set. Though the Bears swept Minnesota on Friday night in the round of 16 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle, Wash., their set-winning streak was almost snapped.

Seventh-seeded Cal (28-3) found itself trailing the tenth-seeded Gophers by five in the second frame. Minnesota (26-9) was just two points away from tying the match at one

"I remember Carli (Lloyd) and Tarah (Murrey) saying, 'We are not losing this set. There is no way we're losing it,'" opposite side hitter Correy Johnson said.

Johnson embodied that mentality right away, obliterating the ball crosscourt for a point to pull within four. The sophomore then overplayed a pass and the Gophers moved away from the ball, thinking it was out. It grazed the line and was called in.

Middle hitter Shannon Hawari and outside hitter Adrienne Gehan combined for the next three points. Johnson tipped a pass coming over to force set point, which outside hitter Tarah Murrey captured with an ace.

With seven straight points, the Bears went up two sets to none, en route to a three-set victory, 26-24, 25-23, 25-23.

"It felt all match long like we were winning," Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert said. "Then we look up at the end, and we had made a couple mistakes, and we lose."

"To not win that set took the wind out of our sail."

Cal did not have to whittle away at a sizeable deficit to take the third set, with neither team building more than a two-point lead. None were more important than the last two of the match to break the 23-all tie. Lloyd unloaded on a pass coming over the net for a point, then Gehan clinched the victory with a well-placed tip.

"I can't say enough about the way our team got very, very stiff and resilient when push came to shove," Bears' coach Rich Feller said. "They can set their sights on something and not let somebody get in their way."

Despite the win and significant comeback, Cal was not satisfied with its play. The Bears did not dictate the tempo of the game, as they have become accustomed to doing throughout the season. For much of the match, Feller's squad did not have an answer for the Gophers' outside hitters Ashley Wittman and Tabi Love, who torched Cal for 29 kills combined.

"They're both big guns and they've got some wicked arms," Lloyd said. "We've played big outsides and really respectable outsides, but I don't think they've had that hard crosscourt shot over and over again (that Wittman and Love had)."

Minnesota's offense notched 53 kills to the Bears' 48, while holding Murrey to a .184 hitting percentage with 10 kills. The Gophers' traditional go-to attacker, middle hitter Lauren Gibbemeyer, logged 14 kills and hit .400.

"I feel like our kills, our execution was more efficient than theirs was," Minnesota libero Jessica Granquist said. "But they just kept at it, kept being efficient all the way through. They were very stable."

With the win, Cal advances to the Seattle Regional Final against host Washington, who beat Nebraska in four sets later Friday night. The match will take place at 8:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU.


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

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