Cal hosted the Colorado Buffs and Utah Utes at Haas Pavillion over the weekend, with the contest leaving the Bears hungry and – well, defeated. After two promising starts, the usual occurred, and the blue and gold found themselves preparing for a paw-fest with the Bruins down south.
First on the agenda was Colorado, and they wasted no time getting active. The Buffs went on a 10-6 run to begin the first set and didn’t give Cal any breathing room. After a Sophie Scott kill made things interesting, Colorado ended the fun quickly, winning the set 25-15.
The second set saw some Bear history. Opposite Sydney Lilomaiava and outside hitter Peyton DeJardin each had career nights with kills, posting 15 and 14 respectively. Their efforts, alongside middle blocker Mikayla Hayden’s four blocks, pushed the blue and gold to win their first set since Oct. 21st versus USC. Cal would defeat Colorado in the second set 25-19.
After what was a promising stretch of teamwork, Cal was quickly out-rivaled by Colorado. The black and gold took care of business, winning the next two sets 25-20 and 25-16. Middle blocker Meegan Hart dominated the front lines, assisting on nine blocks for the Buffs. She was helped by outside hitter Maya Tabron, who added five blocks.
The Bears saw a strong outing from libero Tara DeSara, who posted 23 digs – compared to the 18 of Colorado’s Katie Lougeay. Setter Kendall Jensen had a handful of healthy serves, but they were missing in Sunday’s matinee.
Friday night’s loss sent the Bears to 7-16 on the season, with the team eager to reverse the trend against Utah.
Surprisingly, Cal looked like they were about to do it. Until the Utes celebrated the end of their two-game losing streak after five sets.
Fans in attendance on Sunday afternoon couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The blue and gold won the first two sets, forcing Utah to burn four timeouts. DeJardin topped her career high from 36 hours prior, posting 15 kills, and Hayden was everywhere as usual with five blocks and six kills.
Winning by combined set scores of 50-33, Cal moved into the third set eager to snap its 13-game skid.
Unfortunately, the red and black didn’t care for the temporary feel-good story. Led by libero Vanessa Ramirez, who had 15 digs and five assists, the Utes ran the Bears off their floor – dominating the remaining sets by a combined score of 65-34. Alongside Ramirez, setter Emily Smith’s four aces proved to be crucial in Utah’s comeback. Her aces are exemplified when considering Cal’s Jensen had five service errors. Jensen’s mishaps were unusual, as she didn’t have over two service errors in a match until Sunday’s outlier – and they sure were deflating.
Cal’s defeat was a frustrating one since it was the team’s best shot at victory since Sep. 23rd’s defeat to Oregon State – where the Bears took two sets at Gill Coliseum.
Following the shift to 7-17, the Bears are left with only six more opportunities to snatch a win.
The team now heads south with its eyes set on the UCLA Bruins. The baby bears sit at 13-10 overall, standing at .500 in Pac-12 play.
In order to have a joyful ride back home, Cal will have to keep libero Mackenzie Cole (300 digs) and élan McCall (233 kills) in check.
The matchup will be tough for the Bears, as UCLA has won four of their last five matches. The two teams met earlier this year, when the Bruins pulled out the brooms in Berkeley about two weeks back.
One can hope that Cal benefits from the change of scenery.