Volleyball: Cal's Record Streak Comes To an End Against No. 3 Stanford

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Volleyball, like many sports, is a game of inches.

When it comes to ending Cal's 20-year losing streak to Stanford, there's enough of those inches to stretch across the Grand Canyon.

That was apparent Friday night in Palo Alto, in an atmosphere that rivaled a heavyweight title fight.

Coming into the contest on a nine-match winning streak, the Bears landed some shots early against the No. 3 Cardinal and looked capable of an upset.

Cal (9-1, 0-1) was unable to muster a knockout punch in either of the first two games and ended up on the ropes and eventually TKO-ed in three (30-28, 30-25, 30-18).

The Bears had a chance to steal the first game, but errant serves let Stanford off the ropes early and often.

The improvement was evident but a victory still looked unfathomable for Cal, which seemed mesmerized late by Stanford's lethal combinations and killer instinct.  

The Bears squandered early opportunities to take the first two games from the Cardinal, and possibly change the outcome of the contest.  

An intense rally in the first game put the Bears in position to steal it from the Cardinal, but a long service by Jenna Brown landed just inches long to give Stanford back the momentum and the all-important opening game.  

"We saw that we can really hang in there with the best the country has to offer," says junior defensive specialist Jenna Grigsby. "We had some

opportunities, but we just have to learn from them and focus on the rest of the Pac-10 season."  

The Bears also played the defending national champions close in the second game-holding serve and the momentum until mistakes helped the Cardinal pull away and frustrate the Bears for a second straight game.

As the frustration of the first two games set in and the pressure of a tough road match mounted, the Bears were overpowered in the third game 30-18.

Cardinal stars Logan Tom and Ogonna Nnamani paced the Cardinal with 15 and 10 kills respectively, and sent their Bay Area rivals home with revenge on their minds.  

"We will use this game as motivation," added Grigsby. "We are circling Nov. 22 on our calendar when they come to Haas."

The change in attitude is evident among the Bears. Although the run of futility against Stanford continued, the match itself was much closer than the sweep dictated.

"This game was a measuring stick for us," said junior Caity Noonan. "We now know what it takes and how much the little things can make a big difference."

The Bears played solidly, for the most part, across the board. They were led by their dominant force, Mia Jerkov, who had another good match, tallying 13 kills and seven digs.

Despite the long serve in the first game, freshman Brown was a pleasant surprise for Cal with a career-high 12 kills.

With the loss, the Bears ended their streaks of victories and consecutive games won at 27.

"We can't let this match ruin what we have worked hard for," Noonan said. "We just have to start a new streak."

They'll get their chance Friday when Pac-10 play continues against the Ducks in Eugene, Ore.


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