Behind the Score
Losses UCLA has suffered this season, all to teams ranked in the top six at that time
Wins by the Bruins this season have been in straight sets
The UCLA women’s volleyball team continued what seems like a season-long trend in its road trip to the Bay Area. The Bruins lost a nail-biting match that could have gone either way against an elite team before going on to make quick work of a lesser-ranked opponent.
Friday saw the former happen, where No. 7 UCLA (13-4, 5-3 Pac-12) lost a late lead in the decisive fifth set against No. 4 Stanford (16-2, 8-0). Up to that point, the game had gone back and forth with the Cardinal squeaking out close victories in the first and third sets while the Bruins owned the second and fourth.
It was a tough loss for the Bruins, who looked strong at various moments throughout the game but could not pull it together in the end.
“Unfortunately, we came up short. It was devastating, but we had 24 hours to let it go (before the next game),” said junior outside hitter Kelly Reeves. “We can’t dwell on these losses; we just have to use them as motivation for the next game.”
All four of UCLA’s losses this season have come in close games against teams that were ranked in the top six at that time. The Bruins have continued to push elite teams to the brink, but have ultimately struggled to finish off those games.
Coach Michael Sealy isn’t concerned about the implication these losses have on the team’s postseason hopes.
“I’m pretty sure they don’t hand out national championship trophies to people who win games in October, I haven’t heard of that yet,” Sealy said.
While the losses themselves may not be too worrisome, the team’s 1-3 record in five-set matches might be cause for some concern.
“We need to learn how to close out games,” said senior outside hitter Tabi Love. “We’re such a young team; it’s something we have to practice to be good at. But I think it’s safe to say we’ve had our practice now.”
When asked if there was anything the team could do to have a better chance in five set matches, Sealy answered simply.
“If you hit the overpass in set three or four then you don’t have to play the fifth,” Sealy said.
The team went on to make good on Sealy’s logic Sunday, dominating the Cal Golden Bears (9-9, 3-5) in three quick sets.
As much as the Bruins have struggled against top opponents, they’ve been very successful when faced with opposition ranked below them.
The game was never really in doubt for UCLA, although some lapses in intensity prompted the coach to make a few extra substitutions as the game went on to change the team’s dynamic, Sealy said.
One of those substitutes was bringing on freshman outside hitter Hannah Boland, whose efforts were noticed and appreciated by veteran members of the team.
“She brings another energy for this team, I love seeing that spark in her,” Reeves said. “When you are out on the court and someone comes in and brings that type of energy, it’s like it makes us respect each other.”
The win over Cal will serve to rinse out some of the sour taste that was left after the difficult defeat to Stanford, a defeat from which a lot may be learned.
“I think we did a great job of bouncing back after a tough loss,” Love said. “Obviously we would’ve liked to win against Stanford, but they just gave us more things we need to work on.”