We haven’t devoted any space in BearTalk to the Cal women’s volleyball team this season, but the Bears finally delivered some news I thought you might enjoy: Christina Higgins had 22 kills and Cal upset No. 21 USC in five sets on the road Friday for its first Pac-12 win of the season.
The Bears prevailed 21-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-15, 15-13 for their first conference victory after 14 losses.
It also was Cal’s first road win vs. USC in 10 years.
Coach Rich Feller, who has directed the Bears to 12 consecutive NCAA tournament bids including two Final Fours, was happy for his team.
“They’ve stuck with it and worked hard,” he said. “They’ve dealt with the disappointment, and for them to get this kind of victory is very rewarding for them and our program. It’s proof that we are a solid, good team.”
Cal has added a women’s sand volleyball program, to make its debut March 9 when the Bears visit Pacific.
Cal’s first home match will be March 14 against San Jose State.
The Bears will play seven dual matches and participate in two tournaments during the season. The competition format features five doubles matches per event, and each match consists of a best 2-out-of-3 sets.
The Bears will play their home matches at the Clark Kerr sand volleyball facility. The roster will be made up of players from Cal’s current indoor volleyball team as well as non-scholarship athletes who just play sand volleyball.
Women’s indoor volleyball coach Rich Feller will oversee the program.
Cal’s volleyball season ended Thursday after a 26-24, 25-23, 18-25, 25-16 loss to North Carolina in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at Ames, Iowa.
Senior middle hitter Shannon Hawari, a first-team all-Pac-12 selection, led the Bears (15-16) with 12 kills and five blocks. Senior middle hitter Kat Brown had five blocks to become Cal’s all-time blocks leader with 509.
The Cal women’s volleyball team (15-15) will open the NCAA tournament on Thursday against North Carolina (25-5) at Ames, Iowa. The match begins at 3 p.m. PT.
This is the Bears’ 11th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, and a win would push them into Friday’s second-round game against 15th-seeded Iowa State (20-7) or Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne (25-6). The subregional survivor advances to the regionals at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley on Dec. 7-8.
Cal and UNC have squared off the previous two seasons in the NCAAs, with Cal winning in the second round in 2010 and the Tar Heels knocking the Bears out in the first round in 2011.
The Bears have advanced to the national semifinals two of the past five seasons, and reached the national championship match in 2010.
This Cal team struggled to stay healthy, losing two starters during the preseason and enduring stretches of the year without other key players. Senior middle hitter Shannon Hawari was a consistent bright spot and earned all-Pac-12 first-team honors.
Senior middle hitter Kat Brown finished the regular season tied atop Cal’s career list with 504 blocks. She is poised to break the mark set by Ellen Orchard (2004-07).
Cal senior libero Robin Rostratter is one of 30 finalists for the Senior Class Award for volleyball, given each year to a senior athlete with notable achievements in community, classroom, character and competition.
Rostratter is a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic selection and winner of the 2010 NCAA Elite 88 Volleyball Award, as the owner of the highest grade-point average of any player participating in the NCAA tournament.
A former walk-on, Rostratter — sidelined so far this season with a groin injury — has a cumulative grade-point average of 3.905 and is on track to graduate with a double-major in media studies and Spanish.