Cal Topples No. 15 Stanford In Five
BERKELEY -- Katarina Pantovic recorded her first career double-double with 15 kills and 12 digs as California went on to an 18-25, 25-23, 25-21, 22-25, 15-12 victory over rival No. 15 Stanford on Friday at Haas Pavilion.
The Bears (1-6, 1-6 Pac-12) beat the defending national champion Cardinal - winners of three of the last four NCAA titles - for the first time since Nov. 25, 2011.
"I'm exceptionally proud of our players today, from the way they battled together as a group to the resilience they showed through the ebbs and flow of the match," Cal head coach Sam Crosson said. "It was a special day for them and the program as a whole. The players are starting to see the impact of the areas that we have been working on in practice and applying those skill sets to the game and today was a good validation for our team that we are heading in the right direction."
Senior setter and team captain Isabel Potter filled the stat sheet for Cal, recording a match-high 23 digs, 33 assists and five service aces. Gabby Bellizzi had 20 digs for the Bears, continuing several rallies with one-handed dives that turned into points. Cal won the battle from behind the service line, 12-5, after coming into the match with 12 aces in the first six matches combined.
"It's huge to not only beat our cross-bay rival, but to do it against such a great program and to get our first win against them since 2011 in a gritty, five-set match is a great feeling," Pantovic added. "We were focused on our execution and communication on the court today and going forward we need to control what we can control and continue stepping it up from the service line."
Lydia Grote added nine kills, four blocks and three service aces while Bella Bergmark had 10 kills, including the match-winner.
The Cardinal (0-3, 0-3 Pac-12) got a match-high 16 kills from Caitie Baird.
"The largest area of the game that we made progress on today was our serving," Crosson said. We want to be able to apply pressure from the service line on a consistent basis and I thought tonight we did a very good job of that. Sunday will be another great opportunity for us to go out and compete. The experience our roster is getting right now is invaluable for our future and I know the players will be ready to battle again this weekend."
HOW IT HAPPENED
After the Cardinal took a competitive first set, the Bears answered in the second frame. Stanford jumped out to a 9-4 lead, capped by a Baird kill, before a run of six straight Cal points to take the lead, finished off by a third service ace from Potter. The set stayed within a point until Cal went up 22-20 on a Stanford attack error, but the next three points went to the visitors to make it 22-23. A Stanford service error, block by Bergmark and kill by Pantovic ended the consecutive runs as Cal took the set, 25-23.
Cal kept the momentum going into the third set, taking a 6-0 lead to force a Stanford timeout. The Bears made it a 10-3 advantage until five straight Cardinal points turned it into a two-point deficit. Cal got big kills from Pantovic and Grote to make it a six-point lead again, but the Cardinal battled back to tie the set at 20. Cal scored the next four to reach set point and ended it on a Pantovic kill to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The defending national champions didn't go away easily, building a biggest lead of 10 points halfway through the fourth set. Cal closed to within 23-21 on a Bergmark kill, but two of the next three points went to Stanford as they tied the match 2-2.
The Bears took a 4-1 lead early in the back-and-forth deciding set on a Pantovic crosscourt kill. Stanford would fight back again, tying the score at six-all on a block by Natalie Berty. The freshmen Bears answered with kills from Pantovic and Grote, along with a double block by Grote and Potter to make it 11-8, Cal. The Cardinal came back once more, making it 11-10, but an attack error followed by the last ace from Potter put the set and match away for Cal as Bergmark ended it with a kill.
The Bears travel to Stanford for the second match of the Big Spike weekend on Sunday, Feb. 14 against the No. 15 Cardinal. First serve is scheduled for 5 p.m. PT and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.