Today, 6 p.m.
Salt Lake City
Info: UCLA hits the road against new Pac-12 rivals Utah and Colorado.
Competing in an unfamiliar place is a difficult experience, especially when this new place is filled with spectators cheering against you.
That is what the No. 2 UCLA women’s volleyball team will face this weekend.
Utah and Colorado just joined the Pac-12
Conference this academic year.
This will be the first time UCLA meets the new schools in conference play.
UCLA (11-2, 4-1 Pac-12) will compete in Utah (6-8, 1-4) today, and then travel again to face Colorado (5-8, 0-5) on Sunday.
Playing away from the fans in Westwood is difficult to begin with, but stepping into an entirely new place against a new opponent can take an even bigger toll on the team.
“Whenever it is a road trip, you just have to get mentally ready for it,” senior libero Lainey Gera said.
“Going on the road is never fun, especially so because it’s our first time doing the Utah, Colorado route.”
With the many miles between UCLA and Utah, the team must leave earlier than it would for most road trips.
Also, this trip will be different because instead of having the usual two games in two nights, the team will have a travel day in-between because of the distance between Colorado and Utah.
With just one Pac-12 win combined, the Utes and Buffaloes do, on paper, appear to be easier opponents to face than last week’s top-ranked teams ““ but the Bruins refuse to let that affect their play.
The AVCA National Player of the Week and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week, sophomore outside hitter Kelly Reeves, knows that the Bruins needs to prepare for these matches as hard as if they were preparing for the top teams in the nation.
“It’s just like every other match,” Reeves said.
“We don’t know much about Colorado and Utah, but we have to treat these games like how we went into the games against Stanford and Cal. We can’t assume we’re going to win.”
Even after a great weekend, the team did not stop working hard to improve not just for this road trip, but also for the whole season.
“We’re focused on our side of the net,” coach Mike Sealy said. “We watched videos, watched all the components. Even with two big wins, there are plenty of things to improve on.
“Even in the two matches that we won, things were happening that were pretty big reasons why we didn’t play well in Washington,” Sealy added.
Because it is still early in the season, Sealy could work on individual components of the team during practice so they could fine-tune their performance.
Even with the rough travel schedule, the team is determined to win both matches on the road this weekend.
“It all comes down to just playing volleyball,” Reeves said. “It’s mentally tough, but it’ll be a challenge that we are up for, and I’m excited to do this.”