California volleyball was hoping to play spoiler in Utah’s Pac-12 home opener on Sunday, but ultimately found itself falling short in a five-set, 3-2 heartbreaker in favor of the Utes (6-6, 1- 1 Pac-12) .
The Golden Bears (11-2, 0-2) held the Utes to .185 hitting in the game. Freshman Maggie Lee posted her sixth double-double of the season with a court-leading 22 kills and 13 digs, while the junior Annalea Maeder reached the 2,000 career assist mark by adding 42 to his total. Senior Tara Village recorded 21 digs, the most of any player. Junior Ellie Hamm hit .471 with a career-high 10 kills and tied for the court lead with seven total blocks; redshirt sophomore Ava Mehrten added another six stops to Cal’s defensive efforts.
Li opened the match with a kill, starting a 3-0 run for the Bears, but the Utes quickly responded with four straight points. An exchange of points and a solo block from Hamm tied the score at 5-5; after that, however, Utah took the lead for good thanks to several Cal miscues and solid play (six kills on 13 attacks) from Ute lead attacker Lauren Jardine. In the end, the first set went to the home team, 25-17.
Utah carried its momentum into the second set, scoring first on a kill from Jardine, but the Bears responded well and took the lead on Mehrten’s first kill of the day. Cal soon extended that lead to 7-3 and held the lead until the media timeout with a score of 15-12, Bears; After that, the momentum swung Utah’s way as it scored seven of the next nine points to take a two-point lead, 19-17. Although a pair of big blocks allowed Cal to catch up with the dominant Utes, the latter team took set two, 25-23.
The Bears defense had its best performance in the third set, holding the Utes to .075 hitting. Cal went on a 3-0 run courtesy of a Utah error, a service ace from Maeder and a block from Hamm and Mehrten. Immediately, the two squads exchanged a 5-0 run to bring the score to 8-5, Bears, before the sophomore. said Mikayla Hayden The fourth kill sparked another four point streak for the Blue & Gold. Although Cal never got comfortable – Utah cut the Bears’ lead to one on four occasions after they crossed the 20-point mark – the Bears eventually took the first set, 26-24, off another block by them. by Hamm and Mehrten.
Still alive, Cal continued its momentum into the fourth by outshooting Utah .382 to .125. Maeder added to her offensive efforts with two straight kills to take a 6-5 lead for the Bears, which they maintained the rest of the set. A seven-point run that included two straight kills and a block from Hamm brought the score to 15-7, a solid eight-point cushion that became the margin of victory. Two consecutive kills from Li (Nos. 16 and 17), and another from Hamm, gave the set to Cal, 25-17, and tied the match at two sets apiece.
Both teams kicked their offense into full gear for the final set, with Cal hitting .308 to Utah’s .346. Li started things off with a kill but the home squad responded by outscoring the Bears 7-2 over the next nine points. Utah consistently maintained a three- to four-point lead over Cal until Hamm’s 10th kill jump started Cal’s six-point streak, including the last three kills by Li, to lead 13-12. However, the last timeout was enough for the Utes to claim their victory and scored the next three points to win, 15-13.
The Bears return home to Haas Pavilion next week, hosting Pac-12 foes Arizona (5-8, 0-2) on Friday at 6 pm PT and undefeated Arizona State (14 -0, 2-0) on Sunday at 11 am