During the Bruins’ scrimmage in Wednesday’s practice, freshman setter Becca Strehlow swiped two fingers down twice over her stomach to signal the playcall.
Moments later, she received the ball off a dig, and relayed a no-look set backwards to sophomore middle blocker Zoe Nightingale.
A wide-open Nightingale hammered the ball down for a thunderous kill that sent chills rifling through the vast concaves of Pardee gym.
Doing their best Nightingale impression, the No. 6 UCLA women’s volleyball (10-3, 2-2 Pac-12) is trying to hammer down a revamped offensive system in which the team is trying to play faster. Their success, though, has faced more opposition than Nightingale’s unimpeded attempt.
“We’re just trying to get everyone to go faster. It’s not what some people on our team are used to,” senior outside hitter Rachael Kidder said.
“Just getting the new people worked in and making sure it’s all in sync ““ it’s pretty tough but I think we’ll get there.”
The team debuted its new system in last Friday’s sweep of Washington State, where it achieved stellar results.
Coach Michael Sealy admitted his team’s consistent execution of the system has tailed off since then.
The Bruins, though, seem to be making a conscientious effort to grasp the system.
At one point in Wednesday’s scrimmage, the words “speed, speed, speed” could be heard during a rally, indicating the team’s point-by-point commitment to playing faster.
“We are always reminding ourselves to be really fast,” said junior middle blocker Mariana Aquino.
“We have to keep doing that and keep remembering because it’s not only in games we have to do that, but everyday, to keep up with (it).”
UCLA will get more in-game practice of their new system this weekend when they play Arizona State (13-4, 2-2) on Friday and Arizona (9-6, 1-3) on Sunday.
This weekend’s homestand marks the end of the Bruins’ heavy early season travel schedule.
After playing 11 of their first 13 games away from home, UCLA will now play six of their next eight at home.
The familiar confines of the John Wooden Center should serve the Bruins well over the next month as the team looks to build momentum heading into the latter part of the season.
“I think the girls are tired of traveling. I’m tired of traveling. We need to get into a normal routine, and that will help a lot,” Sealy said.
It’s been difficult to find that normal routine with volleyball, schoolwork and travel coinciding.
Staying at home should ease that burden though.
“(Playing on the road) got kind of tough when school started and stress started piling up,” Kidder said.
“It will definitely be nice to be at home, have our home crowd and be on the court we’re used to.”