On November 26, 2010, Cal volleyball had an opportunity to do something it had never done before, win the Pac10. Volleyball has had a lot of success the past few years, going to the Sweet16 and Elite8 in the NCAA Tournament. However, due to the strength of the Pac10, Cal had never actually won that conference.
With a victory over Arizona at noon on Friday, Cal could do the impossible. TIME TO HEAD OUT TO HAAS FOR THE GAME!
I must admit that I have played some volleyball in my day. I have perfected some amazing moves as the fetal position and even the flying fetal position. I think I hold the record in my amateur league for "spikes blocked by face." At one point, a competitor became rather proficient at serving directly to me, given my penchant for failure. A surprisingly focused teammate took to standing next to me and pushing me out of the way to respond to the incoming serve.
Yet somehow I had never been to a Cal volleyball game. How unfortunate. I can report back to the dear readers of this here website that I have been missing out! And if you have not been attending volleyball games, you have been missing out also.
I went with PaleoDan and CalNet. When we got in to the game (tickets only $3, because we brought canned food for a food drive), we were able to sit quite closely to the action. It is open seating and unlike the Big Spike, the crowd was not packed. Perhaps it was due to the Thanksgiving break with many students gone to see their families.
When we arrived, they were announcing the Seniors. Here is Meagan Schmitt.
They received a bouquet of flowers from Cal coach Rich Feller.
Here is Carli Lloyd.
Adam Duritz was in attendance! He was sitting way far up. Didn't understand why he didn't move down to better seats, but what do I know? I'm a volleyball noob.
The seniors each had recorded a special message to the team and to each other.
Then, there were the introductions. Each player would get introduced, high five their teammates and then throw a small stuffed volleyball into the crowd. No volleyballs were thrown towards me.
And, soon, we were underway!
This dude's job was to wipe down the balls and then provide them, fresh, to be served into play. This is where I abstain from any inappropriate double entrendres with the ball-wiper job.
Oski showed up. He had an odd dimple dent thing on his forehead. He never came by where we were sitting, so I couldn't really get any good shots.
I would by lying to you if I said I understand the nuances of the game of volleyball. And what sort of Marshawnthusiast would I be if I lied to my readers! I grasped the basic concept of set the ball for a massive spike. In the first set, Cal was dominant and had crisp passing with powerful spikes.
What I like is that after every point, the teams come together for a quick huddle and a pep talk. Win or lose, they come together to psyche themselves up! I wonder what they say in there. Whether it is just a quick "LET'S DO THIS THING!" or a more specific analysis.
Brock Mansion briefly appeared. I don't want to make this like a Gossip Girl episode, but he is apparently dating senior superstar Carli Lloyd. Also, he recently got into Columbia and met an older, attractive business professor whose cousin was secretly trying to take him down, because he screwed over her brother. Ok, that made it *exactly* like a Gossip Girl episode!
You can see that Cal took the first set in dominant fashion.
The big screen at the volleyball game had a lot of the same things you'd see at a football game. For example, here is the volleyball shuffle (i.e. helmet shuffle). Despite PaleoDan's best guess of #4, he was not correct.
One of the announcer sat in these seats for a period of time. A little unclear to me why. I guess he wanted a different angle on the plays. Couldn't they at least get him a desk or something?
A small amount of RallyComm was there.
The Arizona Coach was getting upset in the second set. Arizona jumped out to a quick lead, showing that they would not just roll over. PaleoDan informed me and I believed and now thereon allege that they had lost 3-0 to Stanford 2 days prior. So, they didn't want history to repeat itself in the East Bay. The Arizona Coach got very animated in the second set and got what I presume amounted to a technical foul. It seemed to spur his charges on to playing much better after that first set.
Sandy Barbour was there. She looked as important and dignified as ever.
Cal really hurt itself in the second set by hitting a lot of spikes out of bounds. Too powerful! However, they did battle back and ended up taking the second set to put themselves merely one set away from the Pac10 Championship! The crowd was not large, but when Cal took that second set they were enthusiastic!
You can see the score was much closer in that second set.
The team ran in for a longer break. On the big screen, Cal showed those same stories from the team that you see at the football team. This time it came solely from the seniors. They talked about their favorite halloween costumes:
They talked about their pets:
They talked about their favorite reality TV shows. Apparently, Carli Lloyd's uncle was one of the Original American Gladiators. She clearly comes from an athletic family.
Then, the team came back out and started warming up.
Coach Feller gave them some words of wisdom.
Doesn't he kinda look like Reed Richards "Mr. Fantastic" from the original Fantasy Four? And we're back on with the 3rd set! You'll notice I didn't have a lot of action shots so far. With the fast paced action, it was difficult to get a non-blurry shot. I finally realized after the first 2 sets that I should monkey with the shutter speed on the manual settings of my camera.
I eventually settled on 1/125ths of a second for the shutter speed. That gave me a solid balance of non-blurriness with sufficient light to keep the photo illuminated. You'll see that the photos are somewhat darker in general, though.
This is Tarah Murrey. She appeared to be one of the offensively-minded players as she would often be in a position for a helacious spike. She had an absolute cannon for an arm. I would scream "DROP THE HAMMER" as she began her ascent to reach for the ball and the spike. Sometimes she would have too much power and hit them out of bounds, but in general she was one of the best players out there on the court.
I later told two friends of mine about the game and they told me that they had gone to high school with Tarah Murrey and that she is really nice. She is a local girl from El Cerrito. Good to hear that Cal student athletes are nice!
Volleyball is a great sport for photographers, because there is constant action. There are usually multiple moments of still drama on each volley, because of the tantalizing photographic power of a spike. That moment before the hammer drops when the air is pregnant with the possibilities. I tried to capture that.
In the 3rd set, Arizona again jumped out to a lead. Cal was able to battle back into it, but, ultimately, fell, forcing a fourth set.
We noticed that the list of men's basketball tourney appearances was missing 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2010. We tried to find another banner with those appearances, but were not able to. What manner of confusion is this?
In the 4th set, the team prepares to receive a serve.
And, dramatically, Cal wins the 4th set and the Pac10! They come together to celebrate!
Handshakes for the opposing coaches!
Handshakes for the opposing team!
The final scoreboard! GO BEARS! PAC10 CHAMPS! Cal ended up winning 3-1 with the first set being a cake walk, while the latter 3 were tightly contested. For the $3 cost of the ticket, it was a very enjoyable afternoon and one I would recommend to all. Get out there and support the team.
Cal has a great shot to go deep in the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully, they will! GO BEARS!