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Cal Volleyball vs. Washington Open Thread

Coming off a tough but very important road sweep of the Oregon schools, the Bears (13-11, 7-7) come home to play the Washington schools in the next couple of days. A home sweep this week would ensure that the Bears will finish the year with at least a .500 record. No. 5 Washington (19-4, 10-4), of course, is no slouch even if they had to come back from being down 2 sets to none at home to beat Utah on Sunday. With just a 6-3 road record for the year, maybe the Bears can pull off another big upset. GO BEARS!

When: 7 PM PT



Score update: twitter @CalVolleyball)

The outlook of the 2012 Cal Volleyball season has brightened considerably after last week. Coming off a disappointing 5 set loss at home to Arizona State, the Bears bounced in a huge way by upsetting then No. 2 Oregon (now No. 4) in 5 sets last Friday. The Bears backed up that performance with a 4 set win over Oregon State, who despite a bad conference record was similarly ranked as the Bears in the RPI prior to last week's play. With these two big wins, the Bears's RPI rose from the mid 40s to 35. More importantly, the Bears are now just two wins (in the last 6 matches) away from securing at least a .500 record and be considered for the NCAA tournament (Bears want to run their current program-best NCAA consecutive appearance streak to 11).

As much as it's been nice to have basically all the volleyball matches on Pac-12 Networks, tonight's match on ESPNU should potentially reach more people.

Last week's heroes: Senior Kat Brown won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honor for her 5 blocks against Oregon and 9 blocks (1 short of career high) against Oregon State. Kat will look to throw a block party again this week, for her home fans. Fellow senior Shannon Hawari hit .521 for the week while averaging 3.11 kills and 1.44 blocks per set as well as a career high 5 aces against Oregon State, most came during a key stretch for the Bears. Junior Adrienne Gehan finally returns to her usual starting spot (after suffering a knee injury at the first meeting against Oregon) to average 3.78 kills per set while hitting .314.

Earlier this season up in Seattle: Washington swept the Bears in Seattle in the first meeting of the year on Oct. 21 behind 11 kills from: Kaleigh Nelson and seven blocks from Melanie Wade.

Probable Starters
No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr. Hometown
12 Joan Caloiaro S 5-11 Jr. Saratoga, Calif.
23 Christina Higgins OH 6-2 So. Inglewood, Calif.
5 Adrienne Gehan OH 6-3 Jr. Dallas, Texas
8 Correy Johnson OPP 6-4 Sr. Winter Park, Fla.
7 Shannon Hawari MH 6-2 Sr. Plano, Texas
11 Kat Brown MH 6-3 Sr. Aptos, Calif.
13 Mary McKennon L 5-9 Fr. Newport Beach, Calif.

With Gehan back from injury, coach Feller now has an interesting problem as to who to start at Outside Hitter opposite Gehan. Croatian freshman (with some international experience) Lara Vukasovic has shown moments of brilliance filling in for Gehan. Fellow freshman (Italian-American from Rome), Nikki Gombar have also got some run as the starting OH (Nikkie Gombar has played in every set this season as the extra backrow player given the Bears' still lack of depth there all season long). Either of them could unseat the talented but occasional inconsistent sophomore Christina Higgins for any match.

After the Bears getting their swagger back last week, can they keep the positive momentum going? At their best, the Bears this year are still fairly inconsistent (due to the lack of quality defensive specialists to ensure good passing), but if Washington continues to struggle a bit like their match against Utah where the Utes had great blocking, the Bears are eager to pounce on the Huskies.