They wanted to stay around long enough for the band to play an encore. Or at least to drink a cup or two of victory punch.
However, it was not to be here Friday night at St. John Arena on the campus of Ohio State. The Lady Bisons ended their 25-match winning streak with a 3-0 loss to the California Golden Bears, the No. 9 seed and the No. 10 team in the country, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Lady Bisons lost set one 25-15., set two 25-22 and set three 25-9.
“We were happy to get to the tournament, but for the program's sake and for this team's sake we want to go to the next level,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “Unfortunately, that didn't happen. In the future you will see us here many times again.
“Anybody who comes to this tournament has had a good year. In our case it has been an exceptional year. It was a year we felt like we could go to the next level. We have to earn respect and we didn't earn it.”
Rosenthal had been worried about the impact of Cal setter Carli Lloyd. But in the end it was outside hitter Hana Cutura, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, who was the dominant figure in the match.
In the first two sets Cutura was credited with 16 kills. She finished with a match-high 20. The Lady Bisons, as a team, made only 24 kills in the first two sets. Junior outside hitter Meghan Hinemeyer led the Lady Bisons with nine kills and junior middle hitter Alex Kelly added eight for the match.
Lloyd was credited with 38 assists. Lady Bisons junior setter Stefine “Jake” Pease made 24, her lowest total of the season.
“Lloyd did a fantastic job of distributing the ball,” said Rosenthal. “Unfortunately, in some spots, we didn't take care of our business in following the game plan.
“You can see why Cutura is the Pac-10 Player of the Year. And you could see why we were successful all year. You saw some good things out of us, too.”
Kelly, the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year for the past two seasons, was angered by the way the Lady Bisons performed.
“This was just another volleyball game, and we were supposed to play the way we played all season,” said Kelly. “We came here and played a great team. But if we are not going to play our game when we come here to play the big dogs it is not going to happen for us.
“So the next time we come here we have to do what we have done all season, and that is to work hard. I don't think we worked hard in the first and third sets. We didn't give it everything we had.”
Cal had 44 kills to the Lady Bisons 29 and 37 digs compared with 32 by the Lady Bisons. Cal posted a .453 hitting percentage as a team. The Lady Bisons finished with a .120 hitting percentage.
“The girls realized we deserved to be here, but, as we have said all year long, there is a difference between trying and doing,” said Rosenthal. “This is a lesson they are going to have to take with them.
“As I went back in the locker room it was hard to find the words to say. But if this program is going to move forward we have to be real with ourselves. We have to own up to our own responsibilities and this time we didn't.”
Set three was controlled from the start by Cal. The Golden Bears jumped out to a 6-0 lead, before the Lady Bisons scored.
“Between two and three we talked about the second set,” said Rosenthal. 'I told them we had let one get away and all of sudden we were behind the eight ball. I told them to forget about the score and everything that had gone on. I told them to just go out and play.
“Cal is a tremendous team. They have had tremendous success. But we have to hold up our end of the bargain.”
In set two the Lady Bisons spotted Cal the first three points and battle back to take the lead. The set was close with neither team leading by more than two point until the Lady Bisons took a 15-12 advantage. Cal battled back to tied the match at 16-16.
But the Lady Bisons again took the lead at 17-16. Cal would tied the set again at 17-17, but again the Lady Bisons took an 18-17 lead. Cal tied the set at 18-18 and then took a 20-18 lead. The Lady Bisons stayed close. A kill by middle hitter Amy Trykowski pulled the Lady Bisons to within one point at 23-22, but Cal prevailed.
“We played our game in the second set,” said Kelly. “We didn't play our game in the first and third sets. We got what we deserve.”
With the score tied 2-2 in set one Cal went on a 6-1 run to take control of the set. Cutura led the first set with six kills. Hinemeyer and Kelly each had three for the Lady Bisons.
“It was more about what we didn't do,” said Rosenthal. “In the first and third sets I didn't think we passed the ball very well at all. When you play a faster tempo offense, and you are playing against a taller team, you have to pass well.
“We had been passing the all year long. It was a rough time to have a bad passing match. In sets one and three we couldn't get into a rhythm. And there were a lot of firepower on the other side.”
This was the second NCAA Tournament for the Lady Bisons in the past three seasons. Both times they have played in Ohio, losing in the first round to No. 15-seed Dayton in 2007.
This was the eighth straight appearance by Cal in the NCAA Tournament. They have won all eight of their first round matches during that span.
“The first year it was exciting, but this time around we wanted something more,” said Pease. “We have to worry about what is happening on our side of the net. That is what we practice day-in and day-out. We need to carry that into next year.”
The Lady Bisons ended the season with a program best 28-4 record. Cal is 19-10 overall.
Fans make the trip: The Lady Bisons had a large group of fans in the stands with several members of the baseball and softball teams along with their coaching staffs on hand.
Dr. Phil Kinser from the Bible department was a special guest of the team.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations