Over the weekend, the Bears traveled to Los Angeles where they lost two tight matches to the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans. Dropping each game by set scores of 3-2, Cal displayed its best performances in months. Their efforts, however, weren’t enough, as the blue and gold’s Pac-12 losing streak extended to 51 contests.
The Bears started their two-game slate Thursday night when they faced the Bruins in Pauley Pavilion. UCLA, heading into the affair having three straight wins, was likely getting ready for an easier matchup. That didn’t happen.
Cal played great early on. In the first set, the Bears responded to a 4-1 UCLA start and went on multiple runs to put the match at a 20-20 tie. Middle blockers Mikayla Hayden and Sophie Scott surprised the Bruins, having two kills apiece in the set. Cal ultimately won 25-23 thanks to opposite Lydia Grote’s seven kills. “Murder they Grote,” as Haas Pavilion often sings, also rang true in Pauley Pavilion.
The second set saw continued momentum from Cal, as it began with a 9-4 lead, forcing the Bruins to burn a timeout. UCLA didn’t help itself either, as it had a surplus of net violations and service errors. The Bears didn’t change much from the previous set, and it boded well — putting the Bruins down two sets with a dominant 25-15 win.
After the easily attained lead, the Bears were in a great position to win, as long as they didn’t have a meltdown. Much to their dismay, things quickly turned sour.
The Bruins snapped out of hibernation. UCLA began set three up 9-3, and the shift in momentum proved to be the story of the game. Cal conceded the set seemingly with ease,, and whatever runs it tried to make were quickly diminished by UCLA’s elan McCall (who spells her name lowercase), who was everywhere with 17 kills and 10 digs. Cal would lose the set 25-18, and that seemed to wrap it up.
Grote had a career-high 28 kills in her efforts, but it wasn’t enough to carry the Bears. Cal dropped the fourth set 25-21, and the conclusion wasn’t any prettier.
Cal had more points and blocks than the Bruins, but it didn’t matter. The reverse sweep put the Bears at 7-18 ahead of their trip to USC’s Galen Center.
Saturday’s matinee against the Trojans seemed to be just as, if not more, crushing for fans of the blue and gold. The match was a shootout, with all five sets decided by three or fewer points. Grote’s second issuing of her career-high 28 kills failed to get Cal the win.
Alongside Grote, setter Annalea Maeder excelled with 43 assists. The Trojans saw setter Mia Tuaniga have 53 of her own, serving as examples of how competitive the match was.
The schools split the first sets, with USC taking the first 26-24, and Cal the second at 30-28. Then, the blue and gold made a statement, winning the third set 25-22, but went on to lose the fourth set 25-22. In the last set, too, the team fought hard but dropped it at 16-14.
The Bears had hoped for a win following their defeat by UCLA. The game, however, did not go their way — and the Bears now find themselves at a league-low 16 straight losses. The loss against USC puts Cal at 7-19, extending its Pac-12 losing streak to 51 games. The Bears have also lost 14 consecutive matches to USC, per the school’s broadcast.
The blue and gold had their opportunities, but couldn’t capitalize. The Bears return home to host Arizona on Thursday, hoping to get back into the win column.