If last weekend’s games were an opportunity for the No. 2 UCLA women’s volleyball to showcase its stability and its stars, this weekend was a demonstration of the team’s versatility and depth.
The team was prepared for a difficult situation ““ a three-day road trip to play two new opponents in two different states ““ and emerged without a scratch, sweeping Utah on Friday and Colorado on Sunday.
UCLA was without one of its key players in sophomore outside hitter Kelly Reeves, who sat out the weekend’s games nursing a minor injury.But if the team was negatively affected by Reeves’ absence, it didn’t show on the court or the scoreboard.
The Bruins received big contributions from senior setter Lauren Van Orden and junior outside hitter Bojana Todorovic, who stepped in to Reeves’ position periodically throughout the weekend.
Van Orden was a conduit for UCLA’s offense, tallying 39 assists and 10 digs in the sweep of Utah. The senior, who leads the team with six double-doubles, had an equally impressive game on Sunday against Colorado, with 39 assists and five digs.
Van Orden said the team’s success starts with defense and passing, and the Bruins were on point in both areas over the weekend.
“Our middles created a lot of opportunities for our pins to be successful, and we were pretty relentless on block defense and serve/receive,” she said. “Our passing was great and that always gives us more options offensively.”
The senior attested to the team’s improvement and noted that the team feels more cohesive now than it did earlier in the season.
“I think we’re settling into our roles,” Van Orden said.
“We’re developing relationships with people out there, we’re getting a little more in tune with the people playing next to us and getting to know our limits and how to talk to each other.”
Todorovic has been deadly in the service game this season but showed her talent in the other aspects of the game as well. The junior recorded 10 kills and nine digs against Utah and added 12 kills and 12 digs on Sunday.
“It was amazing. I would say passing is my favorite part of volleyball, but I also love attacking. I did that all last year, and when my team needs me I’m there to step in,” Todorovic said.
“This was a great chance for me to come in and play for Kelly and still take care of business. It shows our team has a lot of depth, and no matter what happens we can adjust and perform.”
Coach Mike Sealy was impressed with the team’s depth and skill at every position, and praised Todorovic for rising to the occasion.
He felt that Sunday’s game marked the first time since last season that the junior played the length of the match at the front of the net.
“Bo did a great job stepping in and playing the entire match in the front row,” Sealy said. “She was pretty flawless all weekend.”
Sealy went on to comment on the team’s depth and also stated the team’s skill makes competition at practice much more intense.
“We’re one of the deeper teams in the country. We’ve got a legitimate backup spot at all six positions and we’ve used it a lot this year,” he said.
Sealy said the decision to sit out Reeves was a precautionary one, and stated that the sophomore had the capacity to play over the weekend but didn’t need to.
“I’ve got to make sure she’s healthy the entire season, I don’t want to rush her back into anything,” he said. “I think she could have played if she had to this weekend, but I was glad Bo stepped in and kept it so we didn’t have to use Kelly.”
Sunday’s match started out a little rocky for the Bruins, who found themselves down 1-6 to Colorado in the first set.
But UCLA responded with 24 of the next 36 points to regain control of the match. Sealy praised the team’s poise and ability to put the poor start behind them.
“They did a great job of resetting, that’s something we weren’t able to do against Pepperdine or Washington,” he said.
“We’ve been pretty good about ““ even in practice ““ when things start going south being able to reset and get back on track.”
The Bruins are certainly on track, as they improve to 13-2 overall and are tied for first with USC in the Pac-12 at 6-1.
Six teams in the conference are ranked in the top 25 nationally, and Pac-12 teams hold five of the top six spots in the national rankings.
UCLA will face Arizona and Arizona State this weekend before a four-game home stand.