Like a Colosseum battle between rival gladiators, the Bears and Ducks exchanged fierce blows, battling with all their might until the very end.
But even with the roars and support of onlooking blue and gold spectators at Haas Pavilion, Cal was ultimately cut down by the other team and walked away with yet another loss.
The Bears remain at the bottom of the Pac-12 conference standings as they continue their losing streak, but sophomore middle blocker Lydia Grote, who undeniably led the team during the Sunday match, knows the team will bring its experience into the next game.
“I think today wasn’t necessarily our strongest match, but we came out with a strong fighting mentality,” Grote said. “Communication is something that every team needs to work on, so that would apply to us too, but I think we can just bring our game a little bit more.”
Grote, who notched six kills on a .190 hitting percentage, one service ace, three digs and one block was one of several Cal superstars, but the team’s lack in communication during critical points kept them from coming out victorious during sets.
The first set began with a huge Oregon lead at 6-14. In an attempt to retake a couple missed opportunities, the Bears came back 9-14 and with a service error by the Ducks, the gap closed to 10-15. Cal, eager to win, went on a five-point run at 13-20 with the assistance of Oregon errors and the Bears’ freshman middle blocker Ellie Ham, junior outside hitter Leah Schmidt and sophomore opposite Sam Taumopeau, bringing the score 17-22. But, with consecutive kills by the Ducks and final service ace, the first set resulted in a 18-25 Oregon victory.
The Ducks are an impressive team that certainly would’ve destroyed their opponents during third century gladiator battles and they demonstrated that consistent strength during the second set as well.
Throughout the set, the team stayed in the lead, but Cal kept up with their strength, trading off on mini-runs and eventually tying at 16-16. But with Cal errors and miscommunication, not to mention the tight gameplay of Oregon, the Ducks went on a six-point run at 17-18 to bring the set to a close at 17 Cal, 25 Oregon.
Although the Bears ultimately lost, they managed to hold their own against No. 17 Oregon and demonstrated that much during the third set of the match.
The home crowd roared as if watching the fiercest gladiator match during the third set as Cal took a sharp 8-1 lead. Despite their losing two straight sets previously, the Bears fought hard to make a comeback and certainly did so during the first fifteen minutes of the set.
Unfortunately for Cal, the Ducks, too, were on the comeback route, closing up the gap and eventually surpassing the Bears’ impressive lead. Both teams exchanged errors and kills for the backend of the set, but the game play of Oregon was slightly more consistent than that of the Bears and the match closed out 16-25.
Despite the Bears’ ferocious playing this season, the team’s bouts of inconsistency do them more harm than good in their matches. Only behind a couple points during each set, it’s clear that the team has given up easy points that could’ve led to potential set victories.
In the third set specifically, the Bears went on an impressive eight-point run that left the Cal crowd feeling energized, confident and prideful — but the errors and moments that lacked tight playing were detrimental to their hopes of victory.
“A lot of times it’s just stuff we can fix on our side… but I know that we’re really excited for the matches next weekend and I think we’re going to come out really strong,” said Grote.
Yes, the fierce gladiators have made errors, but they have also shown great strides of improvement and their ability to rival Oregon so well should definitely encourage the team going into their coming matches against WSU and Washington this coming weekend.
Mia Wachtel covers volleyball. Contact her at email@example.com.