Today, 7 p.m.
FSN (Tape Delay)
Info: No. 11 UCLA takes on an undefeated No. 6 USC team at the Galen Center.
The UCLA women’s volleyball team will begin conference play with a very familiar yet unwelcoming host.
The No. 11 Bruins (10-1) begin Pac-10 play today with crosstown rival USC (11-0) at the Trojans’ Galen Center. Winning their last five matches in straight sets, the No. 6 Trojans pose one of the Bruins’ toughest opponents so far in the young season. Add the history of the rivalry into the equation, and the importance of the match skyrockets.
“USC is always a great match,” senior outside hitter Dicey McGraw said. “It doesn’t take that much to get fired up.”
But amid all the hoopla and hype that comes with a rivalry match, the Bruins are simply concentrating on preparing themselves.
“We need to worry about our side of the net first,” coach Mike Sealy said. “We can’t focus too much on (them). If we’re not playing our game, it doesn’t matter who we play, we’ll get bounced and lose really quick.”
Holding a 56-49 record all-time against the Trojans, the Bruins will look to continue their recent success against their rivals.
The Bruins may have swept the season series 2-0 last season, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be taking their opponents lightly.
“We can’t take any points off against ‘SC because they’re a great team,” McGraw said. “They’re going to bring their best game, so we need to be ready at all times.”
UCLA also holds a winning record against USC when playing in Trojan territory, where they hold a 20-18 advantage. But the Galen Center does have its advantages for the Trojans.
“It’s definitely a hard environment to play in,” McGraw said.
“It’s an awesome gym and they get a lot of aggressive fans, but we know what to expect.”
The last time both teams played against each other, they played a see-saw match that came down to a deciding fifth set. The then-No. 7 Bruins were able to claim a narrow 3-2 victory over the No. 17 Trojans at the Galen Center, but the match was a far cry from the previous USC match earlier that season, where the Bruins swept the Trojans 3-0 in front of a raucous home crowd at Pauley Pavilion.
No matter how loud and intense the atmosphere at Galen may be, Sealy believes his team will remain poised, thanks to a disciplined practice regime.
“We try to practice every day like it’s a game situation, competing as if we are playing a game,” Sealy said. “So far, our energy level has been pretty equivalent from practice to match.”
The Bruins will look to start off the match with that high energy, as they have struggled at times in the first sets.
“We’ve got to come out and start playing right away,” Sealy said.
“We don’t want to give them the (first) set; they have to earn it. We’ve had a few preseason games where we’ve started off slow, and times where we’ve had a big lead and given it up. We just need to play tough.”
Both teams come into the match with lengthy winning streaks on the line, with the Bruins at eight straight victories and the Trojans winning their first 11. Both teams are in search of an early win in a tough Pac-10 conference that boasts six teams ranked in the top-25, including No. 1 Stanford. There is indeed a lot at stake for the first conference match of the season, but according to Sealy, composure will be key.
“I keep telling the girls not to get too fired up for the ‘SC game,” Sealy said. “The emotion only lasts for about four points.
The better volleyball team is going to win the match, regardless of who’s more fired up.”