Farewell to the Bears' Best in Volleyball

By Matt Kawahara, Daily Cal Staff Writer
This story was originally published in the Daily Californian on Saturday, November 19, 2007. Click here for original version.

Reprinted by permission.

Everybody wanted a piece of Angie Pressey and Ellen Orchard on Senior Night. Fans and families milled around the two seniors after they led the Cal volleyball to an easy win over Arizona State, clamoring for autographs and short conversations.

Pressey and Orchard took the overwhelming attention in stride, posing for photos and signing mini volleyballs, all the while being weighed down by traditional Texan mums, which kind of resemble state fair ribbons amplified about 15 times and, somehow, are worn to high school dances in the Lone Star state.

And the people around them kept on coming, because Pressey and Orchard are undoubtedly the stars of this talented Bears team.

Because they are the reason that Cal has already equaled its highest-ever conference win total with one match left to play.

And because Saturday night might have been everybody's last chance to see them in action at Haas Pavilion.

If it was, Pressey and Orchard lived up to the standards that they have set for themselves during their time here, and went out in the same way that they played their last four years.

'Tonight's match was symbolic of their whole careers here,' coach Rich Feller said. 'Hard work until the end, great performance, great execution and leading the team to victory.'

Pressey put on her typical showcase of all-around excellence, dazzling in both the front and back courts. She showed why she is the flashier of the two seniors, the combination of style and substance.

Her attacks were followed with gasps of astonishment, sounds of disbelief that anyone can get up that high and hammer a volleyball that hard.

And she caused an explosion from the crowd with the play of the match Friday night against Arizona, when she was coaxed off her feet chasing a Wildcats set at the net, then regrouped, bounced to her left, and stuffed the attack for the solo block.

'That's just an incredible athletic play,' Feller said. 'And no one else in the conference--maybe no one else in the country--can do that.'

As Pressey announced her presence with authority, Orchard kept hers a relative secret, quietly torturing her opponents on the front line with a flurry of blocks and redirected shots, while hitting .390 herself for the weekend.

'You'll hardly ever notice her, until you look at the stats,' Feller said. 'Then you go, oh my God, okay. She had another eight blocks or 10 blocks.'

Together the seniors guided the Bears to their 21st and 22nd wins of the year, solidifying their case for no lower than a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, Pressey's vocal leadership complementing the quiet reliability of Orchard, Pressey's pizzazz balancing with Orchard's solidity.

When asked if she had any moment of sudden realization, any feeling of finality in her final regular season home match, Orchard acknowledged that it crossed her mind late in the match.

'Yeah, there was a moment in the third game where I rotated out and I was like, well, that's it,' Orchard said. 'It was like, that's weird.'

And Pressey's reaction was this:

'At least I didn't suck.

'When it's really over, and that last ball's served and hit, that's when I start thinking it's all real. When that last ball is served, that is when I will feel it.'

With all that is different about the two seniors, the supporters that swarmed Pete Newell Court to greet them Saturday night made one similarity undeniably clear.

Is this sad or what.

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