Grote Astonishes; Bears Start 2-0
SAN DIEGO – California volleyball kicked off the 2022 season on Friday with a bang, wresting victories away from Army (0-2) and San Diego State (0-1) at SDSU's Peterson Gym in a pair of nailbiters that tested the Bears' fortitude and ability to perform under pressure.
vs. Army (Cal won 3-1)
After getting off to a 2-5 start in the first set, it was freshman Mikayla Hayden who inspired a turnaround for the Bears, posting the team's first kill of the 2022 season and inspiring a 4-0 scoring run. Cal also posted another pair of 3-0 runs until they finally blew the set wide open with a 7-0 sequence, taking advantage of several errors by the Knights and adding kills from junior Lydia Grote (who went on to lead the team with 16 total kills) and freshman Peyton DeJardin. In the end, it was sophomore Annalea Maeder who finished off Set One (25-16) with her first kill of the season.
Army came roaring back in the second set of the match, holding Cal to just a .067 hitting percentage to earn a 17-25 set victory for the Knights; however, Cal responded with a dominant third set in which they hit .440 as a team to win 25-13. That win included a match-high 8-0 scoring run for the Bears that allowed them to pull ahead for good after swapping 4-0 runs with Army; finally, junior Leah Schmidt punched in the winning point to give Cal a 2-1 lead.
The final set between the Bears and the Knights was a thriller that featured no fewer than 6 lead changes and 17 ties. Many of Cal's points were earned due to errors from Army's squad, but the Bears also had several standout performances that helped put them over the top. Schmidt posted 8 of her 15 kills in that fourth set alone, half of which were tiebreakers; meanwhile, Grote added 5 kills and 3 blocks and DeJardin finally put the Knights away, 32-30, with a kill of her own.
In all, the Bears out-blocked the Knights, 13-3, and held them to a .193 hitting percentage as a team.
vs. SDSU (Cal won 3-0)
Cal started off with a bang in no small part due to Grote, who dominated the first set by posting 10 kills on a .643 hitting percentage. The two teams exchanged points throughout most of the set – neither scoring more than three straight points at a time – but Cal slowly pulled ahead to clinch the 25-20 victory.
Although the Bears got off to a slow start in the second set, a litany of Aztec errors allowed Cal to stay within reach. Grote rode the energy from the first set to post another seven kills (including three straight), thus matching her total from Game One in just two sets. She also posted two straight service aces to put the Bears up, 7-5, before the two squads once again began to trade scores. In the end, it was Grote herself who put the exclamation point on the set for a 25-23 Bear win.
Cal demonstrated a great deal of resilience in the final set, despite the Aztecs going on a 5-0 scoring run early on. The Bears were able to take advantage of plenty of errors by the opposition, creating an opportunity for Schmidt to follow up with a kill and then a service ace to make the score 14-13. Grote contributed another kill, bringing her match total up to 18 and leading up to Schmidt's eventual dagger to clinch the final victory for Cal, 25-23.
Grote was the only player on both teams to reach double-digit kills, leading the next-highest total by 11 and finishing with a stunning .516 hitting percentage. As a whole, the Bears hit .358 and held the Aztecs to .121, also posting just 8 errors to San Diego State's 25. It was Cal's first win over SDSU since 1989.
The Bears (2-0) wrap up their opening weekend in San Diego with a 1:30 p.m. PT match on Aug. 27 against the UC San Diego Tritons (1-0) at Peterson Gym.