BERKELEY – California volleyball (5-2) posted a pair of convincing wins on Friday at Haas Pavilion, facing both Utah Tech (4-2) and Tennessee State (2-6) on the first day of the Cal Tournament. The fourth and final team, Nevada (4-4), will take the court against the Bears on Saturday.
Vs. Utah Tech – Cal wins 3-1
The Bears started off strong in the first set, posting a 5-1 scoring run triggered by leading scorer Lydia Grote, before Utah Tech responded with a strong run of their own to reclaim the lead. The two teams then proceeded to exchange points, two-by-two, before Cal put together several small runs to take the lead for good and take the first set, 25-19, off a kill from Annalea Maeder.
Maeder continued her momentum into the second set, immediately delivering a service ace, but the Trailblazers found the energy to rally back and keep pace with the Bears' energy. Both teams were capitalizing on each other's errors, but neither truly pulled away until the very end, when Utah Tech's offense roared to life to tie up the match on a 25-19 set victory.
Cal once again scored first to kick off the third set on a kill from Leah Schmidt, initiating a back-and-forth kill battle between the Bears and the Trailblazers. Although Cal's offense faltered a bit, allowing a 4-0 run to the opposition, Grote's 100th kill of the season sparked a sequence in which the Bears out-scored Utah Tech, 12-7, to clinch the third set with a score of 25-19.
Another Maeder service ace kick-started the fourth set; once again, Utah Tech's offense surged, forcing Cal to call a quick timeout. On the Bears' return to the court, they immediately set the tone, tying the score back up at 15-15 and then posting a 6-0 scoring run that included two straight kills from senior Sydney Lilomaiava. The Trailblazers attempted to respond, but any such ideas were quickly squashed by Cal's ferocious offense; in the end, the Bears won the set, 25-17, for the 3-1 match final and their fourth win of the young 2022 season.
Vs. Tennessee State – Cal wins 3-0
The Bears hit their groove almost right out of the gate, putting together two 4-0 runs in quick succession to race out to a comfortable 12-5 lead before the Tigers found a little fire of their own, putting together a 4-0 run themselves to bring the score to 12-9, Bears. Cal responded with yet another 4-0 run, never losing confidence despite another Tennessee State response, and persevered through a few long rallies toward the end of the set before closing it out with a 5-0 run, winning 25-17.
Another set-opening ace for Maeder set the tone for the second set, followed by three straight kills from Grote, who hit .529 (11-for-19) on the match. Tennessee State roared back to tie the score at 7-7 and continued to show some sustained fire throughout the rest of the set – as soon as Cal would threaten to build a strong lead, the Tigers would put together scoring runs of their own. A picture-perfect corner kill from Sam Taumoepeau would bring the score to 15-12, igniting a ferocious offensive attack from the Bears that included a pair of strong runs to eventually take the win, 25-18.
Cal capitalized on four straight errors from Tennessee State to start off the third and final set of the night and never truly lost their momentum, despite the Tigers desperately trying to put together a sustained sequence. A service ace from freshman Natalie Lau to put the Bears up by 10 all but put a dagger in Tennessee State's hopes, followed by a raucous cheer from Cal's bench as sophomore Ava Mehrten stepped onto the court for her first-ever collegiate appearance. In a picturesque and emotional finish to the night, it was Mehrten who slammed down the winning kill for Cal (25-14) and was subsequently mobbed by the entire team, who laughed and cried with her to celebrate the perfect ending of a long day.
California closes out the Cal Tournament on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Haas Pavilion with a matchup against Nevada (4-4) at 2:30 p.m. PT.
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