Dec. 10, 2010

SEATTLE - The seventh-seeded California volleyball team (28-3) advanced to its fourth straight regional championship match on a 3-0 win (26-24, 25-23, 25-23) over 10th-seeded Minnesota (26-9) in the 2010 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship Seattle Regional semifinal at Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Friday, Dec. 10. The Golden Bears have not dropped a set in tournament play and will face the winner between second-seeded Nebraska and site host Washington in an 8:30 p.m. PT match on Saturday, Dec. 11.

Cal's 28th win equaled the highest single-season win total in program history (1982, under head coach Chris Stanley). It was also the most wins in a single season for head coach Rich Feller, who is in his 26th year.

The Bears used a balanced attack and posted a .319 hitting percentage (48k, 10e) on 119 attacks to pick apart the Golden Gopher defense. Senior setter Carli Lloyd was instrumental as she put up 39 assists to go with seven digs and a team-high five blocks.

Lloyd went to the outside early and often as junior Tarah Murrey (10k, 3e, 38att, .184) and freshman Adrienne Gehan (10k, 2e, 22att, .364) each notched 10 kills apiece. In the middle, Lloyd found sophomores Kat Brown (8k, 0e, 15att, .533) and Shannon Hawari (8k, 1e, 20att, .350) for eight kills each. Sophomore opposite hitter Correy Johnson came through with nine kills (2e, 16att, .438) of her own on the right side.

Murrey and Brown each had four blocks as the Bears held the Gophers to a .289 attack rate (53k, 18e, 121att) with nine blocks and 44 digs, led by sophomore libero Robin Rostratter's17. Senior defensive specialist Meagan Schmitt added nine digs. Brown's performance moved her into fourth for all-time single-season blocks at Cal.

Minnesota's outside hitters did the bulk of the offensive damage for the Gophers as sophomore Tabitha Love led all players with 15 kills (2e, 30att, .433). Freshman Ashley Wittman put up 14 kills (7e, 35att, .200) to go with 10 digs for a double-double, and senior middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer earned 14 kills (4e, 25att, .400) in her final match as a Gopher. Minnesota's junior libero Jessica Granquist led all players with 21 digs.

The Bears opened up on a roll and raced out to a 7-3 lead as Rostratter served up an ace. Cal led nearly the entire way and went in front by six points, 17-11, on a kill by Murrey, but the Gophers dug themselves out of their hole to get within a point at 19-18. The Bears held their ground and went in front by three once more before Minnesota blocked a Murrey attack to knot the score at 22-all. The Gophers went in front two more times before Gehan put a shot off the Minnesota block for a 25-24 lead. The final Gopher attack went wide to give the Bears a 26-24 win. Both teams posted .306 hitting percentages in the first set. Cal had 15 kills (4e) on 36 swings and Minnesota had 17 kills (6e) on 36 swings.

Cal faced a five-point deficit, 23-18, but earned the next seven points to snatch the second set from Minnesota, 25-23. Johnson snagged two kills to open up the 7-0 run before she threw it to the Cal Texans. Hawari took a quick-set from Lloyd to bring Cal within two points, 23-21, before Gehan slammed an overplayed pass to the floor to get the Bears within a point. On a broken play, Murrey put up a set for Gehan that tied the set at 23. Murrey continued her aggressive serving to earn another overplayed pass that Johnson used to give Cal set point at 24-23 before Murrey's ace put the Bears ahead, 2-0, in the match. Cal continued its hot hitting with a .304 outing (17k, 3e) on 46 attacks, and used five blocks to stay in front of a .288 Gopher attack rate (20k, 5e, 52att).

The third set saw its fifth tie at six-all before Minnesota went in front by two, 9-7, on a kill by Love. Schmitt sent an ace serve across the net to knot the score, nine-all. From there, neither team led by more than a point again, until the Gophers grabbed a 23-21 advantage on another kill by Love. Brown's quick-set kill pulled the Bears within a point, but it was Lloyd's kill on an overplayed pass that broke the 19th tie of the set to give Cal match-point at 24-23. On the last rally of the match, Lloyd put up a ball for Gehan on the left that the first-year Bear went up hard for before she tipped it softly to the ground. Cal hit .351 in the final stanza (16k, 3e, 37att) and held the Gopher attack to a .273 outing (16k, 7e) on 33 swings.

Alongside three-time defending champion Penn State and ninth-seeded Texas, Cal is one of three teams in the country to have made four straight NCAA regional championship matches. Only the Bears and the Nittany Lions have yet to drop a set in postseason play this year.