Saturday, October 21

UCLA women’s volleyball kills Trojan pride with win at Galen Center

An 18-match losing streak to Stanford, a winless record in USC’s Galen Center, a young, inexperienced core of players; those were just a few of the problems that the UCLA women’s volleyball team, now on a six-match winning streak, thinks is preventing their stake as one of the premier teams in the Pac-10 this season.

But after just two impressive road trips, the Bruins seem to have overcome each of these problems.

On Oct. 31, the Bruins stunned Stanford in Maples Pavilion with their first defeat of the Cardinal since 2000.

On Friday, UCLA picked up its second win over the Trojans and their first ever in the Galen Center.

“I think it just shows our maturity, and we’ve grown up so much,” said Kaitlin Sather, redshirt senior opposite, on the five-set win at USC.

Tied at second in the conference with No. 7 Stanford and hosting conference-leader No. 4 Washington this weekend. No. 6 UCLA, with six matches remaining before the NCAA tournament, seems to have resolved many of their problems.

Sophomore Sara Sage has been making her presence felt at middle blocker, starting the last three matches.

Freshman Bojana Todorovic has emerged as UCLA’s missing link as the second outside hitter behind junior Dicey McGraw.

And three other freshmen, Rachael Kidder, Lauren Cook and Mari Hole, have been making significant contributions this season.

“We’ve done such a good job of learning from our mistakes and moving forward, and I think being able to play together just shows how much stronger of a team we are now,” said Sather on Friday after defeating USC.

Coach Andy Banachowski echoed Sather’s sentiments and said the Bruins’ six-match winning streak reflects their improvement as the season has progressed.

“It shows that we’re getting better, we’re playing well, and we’re able to maintain it,” said Banachowski of the winning streak. “To get three road wins like this in a row is pretty outstanding. I think it’s a sign that the team is growing up, maturing and getting better skill-wise, too.”

The six-match winning streak, Sather said, means more than that, though.

“We talk about trying to win six games because that’s what we need to win the national championship,” she said. “So this series is huge.”

Den shows up in Galen

A UCLA student section of about 70 fans sat in the northwest corner of the Galen Center, among the 4,000-plus USC supporters Friday. Sather said she enjoyed the backing by her home crowd, especially with the noise and lights of USC’s stadium.

“I’m so glad The Den showed up; they were amazing,” she said. “We had so many people screaming for us here. It just shows how great it is to be a Bruin.”

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