NORTHRIDGE “”mdash; For most of the 2010 season, the UCLA women’s volleyball team hasn’t really been put in a tough spot by their opponents.
In their match against Cal State Northridge on Sept. 14, however, the No. 13 Bruins (8-1) had to face some adversity after losing the opening set. But they were able to mount a comeback, winning 22-25, 25-21, 25-15, 25-14 in Northridge.
“It was like the first game that really, really tested us,” said freshman outside hitter Kelly Reeves. “And I thought we did a really good job staying composed, like the crowd was really loud tonight, and I thought we stayed composed on the court and didn’t let the crowd get to us.”
The Matadors (3-7) took control of the match early with their first-set win, in which they led the whole way. The Bruins came back after being down early to force a tie at 11, but CSUN pulled away from there, and extended its lead to five points at 18-13. UCLA did cut the lead to one at 22-21 after a block by sophomore opposite Rachael Kidder, but CSUN scored three of the next four points to take the set.
The Bruins quickly turned things around in the second, scoring the first five points of the set. They led for the entire set, but struggled offensively along with CSUN. After falling behind early, the Matadors kept it close in the middle of the set, but the Bruins increased their lead late. A service ace by Reeves gave UCLA a 20-16 lead, and CSUN was not able to cut the lead to less than three for the rest of the set. The Bruins only hit for a .083 clip in the second, while the Matadors could only manage a .049 clip. Coach Mike Sealy said the early lead helped the Bruins win the set, in which both teams made several errors.
“We had a little cushion the whole time. “¦ It was just bad volleyball on both ends,” Sealy said.
UCLA picked it up in the third, hitting .290 in that set. Meanwhile, CSUN only lowered their hitting percentage, falling below zero with a -.027 clip in the third. The Bruins again jumped out to an early lead, this time taking a 4-0 lead. They stretched their lead to eight at 18-10, and went up double digits at 21-11 on a CSUN attack error. UCLA’s lead was never less than nine from there. Sealy said a change in serving helped the Bruins turn the match around.
“We served better,” Sealy said. “In sets one and two, we ended up serving the libero too often, so I think in the third set and fourth set, we did a better job of serving the passers that were struggling so they couldn’t really run offense.”
The Bruins kept it going in the final set, ending the game on a dominant note. UCLA went up 13-4 in the fourth before CSUN went on a 6-1 to make it 14-10. After losing some of their lead, the Bruins regained it, and went up by nine again at 22-13 on an ace from junior libero Lainey Gera. The Bruins got their set- and match-winning point on a CSUN service error. Senior outside hitter Dicey McGraw, who led UCLA with 16 kills, said her team underestimated CSUN initially, but showed more intensity as the match went on.
“Once we realized they’re going to bring fire, they’re going to be competitive, and they’re going to play as hard as possible, I definitely think we stepped it up on our side, which is very important,” McGraw said.
McGraw’s play added to the match’s intensity. She argued some calls with the referees, and was even given a yellow card in the fourth set.
UCLA finished with a .224 clip for the match, and held CSUN to a .087 percentage. They also out-blocked CSUN 10-8. Though they have only lost once, Sealy said his team lacks the mindset that elite teams have.
“We don’t have the professional mentality we need yet,” Sealy said. “We’re OK taking plays off. We’re not Stanford, we’re not Nebraska, we’re not Penn State. We’re just not that good where we can walk into a match and not be completely focused on being as good as we can be that night.”