After the Sept. 17 win over Penn, the UCLA women’s volleyball team had a post-game meeting that lasted longer than usual. When the players stepped out and prepared to head home, the mood was surprisingly sullen for a straight set victory.
The No. 13 Bruins (10-1) struggled at times in the first of their twoÂ weekend matches. In the 25-22, 25-21, 25-11 win against the Quakers (3-5), the Bruins had a hard time transitioning back and forth from defense to offense and couldn’t shut the door on Penn, allowing it to stay dangerously close in the first two sets.
But the third set was a different story. Before the match, coach Mike Sealy had a plan to insert his bench players in the third. When the time came, he did just that and the Bruin subs responded.
Sophomore outside hitter Mari Hole, who checked in late in the second set, had eight kills and six digs. Riding the strength of their bench, the Bruins went on to easily handle the Quakers in the third.
Junior setter Lauren Van Orden said the bench added depth and brought intensity to the match.
“They have a great energy. They came in and wanted to dominate,” said junior setter Lauren Van Orden. “It’s great because no matter who comes in, you can depend on them to do their job.”
Though UCLA won in straight sets again, the team had varied evaluations of its play so far.
“After the match I asked the team, “˜What are we?’ We can either be poor, average, pretty good, good or great,” Sealy said. “I went down the line and the consensus was that we were anywhere between pretty good to a little bit below average as a team.”
The Bruins took Friday’s post-game discussion to heart. Before the Sept. 18 match against UC Irvine, which hosted the weekend’s ASICS Challenge, the players had another meeting of their own.
They decided to step up their energy.
Senior outside hitter Dicey McGraw led the Bruins, who played like the No. 13 ranked team that they are.
McGraw had a match-high 19 kills and 13 digs en route to her fourth double-double of the year and a Bruin victory.
The Bruins exploited the middle of the Anteaters’ defense by establishing their attack at the front of the net early. Junior middle blocker Katie Camp wreaked havoc and finessed the ball into empty space, hitting 11 kills and earning 15 points for the match.
The Bruins played considerably better Sept. 18, but the Anteaters didn’t make it easy.
UCI lost the first set 25-19 but came back in the second set with an effective attacking display. After a UCI timeout late in the set, the Anteaters’ offensive strategy shifted to funneling the ball to outside hitter Kari Pestolesi. The senior captain was responsible for a 3-0 Irvine run, highlighted by a thunderous ace to put UCI up 21-20. UCI never let go of the lead and won the set 25-23.
After the intermission, UCLA came out and put an end to the UCI run. Camp was a part of the concerted blocking effort up front as the Bruins stopped the Anteaters.
The Bruins coasted to 25-14 and 25-15 set victories to win the match, ending their preseason with a 10-1 record.
Now they have Pac-10 play to look forward to.
“I feel like we kind of have a target on our backs now,” Camp said. “Not the fact that we’re UCLA but I feel with one loss, teams are going to be, ‘OK, we want to beat them now.’”