Cal Falls In Hard-Fought Pac-12 Championship Opener
LOS ANGELES – As has been typical this year, No. 11 California and No. 9 Stanford played each other to a near draw. The two teams split four previous matchups this year with each team winning twice. The fifth matchup was no different as the two teams battled back and forth on a hot afternoon at Mapes Beach. The fourth seeded Stanford was able to pull out a 3-2 victory over Cal, the fifth seed.
The Bears jumped out to an early lead on court two. Ainsley Radell had back-to-back aces in the first set to put Cal up 8-6 at the first side switch. Neither team could gain more than a two-point advantage until Cal scored three straight points while holding a 15-14 lead. They held off Stanford for the rest of the set to claim the win. In the second set, Radell put Cal up 17-12 with a kill off the block, she then followed with a dig that turned into a shot, that was part of a 4-0 win that helped Cal clinch the first point of the afternoon on court two.
Cal had an opportunity to take a 2-0 lead on court four in what was the most exciting matchup of the afternoon. Maddie Micheletti and Maya Gessner fell behind 20-18 in the first set, but they fought back with a Michletti poke. The Bears fought off six set points during the first set, Micheletti had two more lofted shots to save the set and tie the match back up at both 22 and 24. Gessner had a big block to finally give Cal the lead at 25-24. She then followed with another kill to go ahead 26-25 before a ball goes out of bounce to give Cal the first set at 27-25.
The Bears fought off four more set points in the second set as they were again down 20-19. Micheletti had a kill down the middle to fight off another set point. Cal had four match points during the second set as neither team could put the set away as they went back-and-forth. Ultimately, Stanford took the second set 29-27. Stanford took a 7-3 lead to start the third set, but the Bears fought back in the third set; getting within 8-7. Stanford extended the lead to 14-11, but Micheletti angled a shot for another point, however Stanford scored the next point to secure the point and even the score.
Stanford took the lead on the top court with a 21-18, 21-13 straight-set victory.
On court three, the Bears won their second point of the afternoon. Alexia Inman and Ava Mann took the first set with a 21-18 score. Stanford responded to take the second set 21-17, they held a 19-11 lead, but Cal scored six of seven points to make the match close and gather momentum headed to the third set. The two teams battled in the third set. Neither team could get more than a point ahead until the Bears scored four straight to go up 8-5. Stanford worked back, tying the match at nine. Inman with a block at the net to go back up 11-9. A Stanford service error gave Cal their 14th point of the set and Mann closed it out with a huge swing that found the sand and evened the match at two wins each.
Stanford took the match on court five, which got a late start due to the drama at the fourth pair that preceded it. The Cardinal won the match 21-12, 21-13 to claim the dual.
The Bears will be back in action tomorrow as they will play in the contender's bracket. The Bears will face the loser of the battle between top-seed USC and eighth-seed Oregon. The match will be at 8 a.m. on Pac-12 Network. The Bears will be eliminated with a loss, but will advance to a 3 p.m. Friday battle vs. the loser of No. 2 UCLA and No. 3 Arizona with a win.
#9 STANFORD 3, #11 CAL 2
#1 – Xolani Hodel/Sunny Villapando (STAN) def. Mima Mirkovic/Caroline Schafer (CAL) – 21-18, 21-13
#2 – Ainsley Radell/Jordan Polo (CAL) def. Charlie Ekstrom/ Maya Harvey (STAN) – 21-18, 21-15
#3 – Alexia Inman/Ava Mann (CAL) def. Kate Reilly/Maddi Kriz (STAN) – 21-18, 17-21, 15-13
#4 – Emmy Sharp/Amelia Smith (STAN) def. Maddie Micheletti/Maya Gessner (CAL) – 25-27, 29-27, 15-12
#5 – Maddie Dailey/Jordan McKinney (STAN) def. Brooke Buchner/Grace Paulson (CAL) – 21-12, 21-13
Order of Finish – 2, 4, 1, 3, 5