Arizona State 0
It only took the UCLA women’s volleyball team seven sets to get back on track over the weekend.
The Bruins hosted the Arizona schools in Collins Court at the Wooden Center, handing the Sun Devils a three-set sweep on Friday and defeating the Wildcats in four on Saturday.
The No. 10 Bruins (19-7, 9-6 Pac-10) entered the weekend in the midst of a two-game losing streak but responded with some of their most efficient play to date. They swept Arizona State 25-22, 25-17, 25-19, and though No. 20 Arizona (18-9, 7-7) forced a fourth set the next night, the Bruins hit .304 as a team to put the match away 25-19, 21-25, 25-17, 25-14.
Part of the Bruins’ success over the weekend came from the distribution of their offense. UCLA had three players with double figures in kills against Arizona State (11-16, 5-9 Pac-10), highlighted by sophomore opposite Rachael Kidder’s team-leading 14. The Bruins got even more players involved against the Wildcats, and had four players with 10 or more kills.
The most popular connection of the weekend was between junior setter Lauren Van Orden and senior outside hitter Dicey McGraw. In Saturday’s match, Van Orden continually set the ball outside for McGraw, punishing the Arizona defense. McGraw had 23 kills on Saturday to contribute to her weekend total of 35.
“(On Friday), we forced Lauren to set from a lot of tough situations,” coach Mike Sealy said. “Lauren did a great job all weekend. Our offense wasn’t really clicking (Friday). Much better tonight. We were in system. … Our whole team hit over .300, so our offense was really, really good tonight.”
The Arizona schools’ strength is in their size. Both schools have tall middle blockers and outside hitters that the Bruins knew were going to pose some problems for them. The Bruins were able to match the Sun Devils when the teams tallied 11.5 blocks each, but the Wildcats held the advantage on Saturday.
In the second set, Arizona (18-9, 7-7) put on a blocking display that helped it earn its only set win of the match. Arizona out-blocked UCLA and attacked the front of the Bruin defense with a short tip shot that wreaked havoc.
Wildcat senior Tiffany Owens, who had nine kills in the set, would run to the front of the net and have the Bruin offense thinking about a spike. Instead, a soft floater would glide over the net and land between the gaps of the Bruin defense.
“We knew we could get (the tip shots), we were just letting little points slide that we usually don’t let slide,” McGraw said. “So we definitely had to get back to the basics and take care of business.”
Arizona tried using the tip shot more in the third and fourth sets, but the Bruin defense finally caught up to it and held the Wildcats to 31 points in the last two sets to close out the match.
“It’s pretty exciting, especially now that we’re almost in tournament time, it’s pretty good that we can sweep weekends and come in and get the job done,” junior middle blocker Sara Sage said.