Friday, 5 p.m.
Watch live video on uclabruins.com
No. 9 UCLA closes out the regular season with at home against No. 6 USC.
While the UCLA women’s volleyball team has worked its way up the rankings and become one of many Pac-10 teams to contend with, the school across town has held that title since day one.
On Friday at Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins get a chance to topple USC in both teams’ regular-season finale.
It is a match that has special significance for UCLA senior outside hitter Dicey McGraw.
“This is the game you wait for all year long,” McGraw said. “And I can’t wait to play; its my last time playing in Pauley Pavilion, and I definitely want to go out with a win and a bang.”
The No. 6 Women of Troy have been in the top 10 all year, and are third in the Pac-10. The No. 9 Bruins only recently cracked the top-10 and are right behind USC at fourth in the conference.
Both teams are rolling, and will enter the showdown with four-match winning streaks. UCLA’s 3-1 to USC (24-4, 13-4 Pac-10) loss at the Galen Center on Sept. 24 was its first conference match of the year, but the Bruins (21-7, 11-6) are a more experienced team now. They’ve taken down teams they lost to earlier in the year, and USC could very well be the next team on that list.
“We started (with a loss to) ‘SC and then the Washington weekend,” junior middle blocker Sara Sage said. “We beat the Washingtons when they came here, and now it’s just kind of our turn to come back and beat ‘SC, too.”
In order to do that, the Bruins will have to contain the Women of Troy’s outside hitting duo of junior Alex Jupiter and freshman Falyn Fonoimoana. They rank first and second, respectively, on the team in kills, and Jupiter also ranks fourth in the Pac-10 in that category. They lead a powerful offense which UCLA will have to counter with strong digging and passing.
“You don’t really stop them,” UCLA coach Mike Sealy said of USC’s offense. “You try and dig as many balls as you can. This is one of those matches where we may not block any balls, but as long as we’re playing good defense in transition, that’s how we score points.”
If the scrappy Bruins can do just that, Sage said they might be able to benefit from ‘SC’s size advantage.
“As long as we just keep on getting after it and passing up the balls, we’re going to wear them out because they are big and aggressive,” Sage said.
The UCLA-USC rivalry needs no explanation, but Sealy isn’t letting the Women of Troy intimidate or excite his team. For him, the pageantry isn’t what’s important when the teams take the court.
“The better volleyball team is going to win,” Sealy said. “I don’t care whose band is playing the loudest, I don’t care whose cheerleaders are cheering the best. It’s the team that is technically sound, follows their game plan and executes. That is going to win, regardless of emotion.”