In years past, the UCLA women’s volleyball team would come home after a two-game road trip with almost a week to prepare before heading into another round of games.
This year, that isn’t always the case.
With more television coverage comes a more complicated schedule. The new Pac-12 network has brought a higher level of accessibility to the sport and has provided fans with the opportunity to watch games even when the Bruins are away from home, but with that opportunity has come deviations from the standard schedule.
As a result, the No. 6 UCLA Bruins (13-4, 5-3 Pac-12) swing right back into action on today against Utah Utes (11-10, 2-6) only a few days after a couple of weekend games in the Bay Area. Although the Bruins are playing a Utah team that is stuck near the bottom of the Pac-12 standings, the lack of preparation could potentially wear on their play.
However, the team seems unworried. Some players even prefer jumping back into games right away.
“I think it’ll actually work out in our favor,” said sophomore middle blocker ZoÃ« Nightingale.
“Sometimes when you have a whole week of go-go-go practices you kind of get drained at the end. I like having games on Wednesday.”
Whether any sloppy play results from the limited preparation remains to be seen. Someone who rarely looks off point, though, is junior middle blocker Mariana Aquino, who has not committed a hitting error in the last five games heading into today’s contest against Utah.
Aquino sees the team’s setters and overall style of play as being critical in amassing the impressive streak.
“Usually our setters are very good at reading where the blockers are,” Aquino said.
“There’s a really good and organized dynamic within our team has right now.”
The culprits who are primarily responsible for making those reads are freshman Becca Strehlow and sophomore Megan Moenoa; the two setters have been pushing each other throughout the season and inevitably competing for playing time.
“Becca and I are teammates before anything; we both know the competition is there and we’re very open about it,” Moenoa said.
“We try to help each other out and I think we learn from each other but we’re both competitors and we’re going to keep battling it out.”
Position battle or not, things with the Bruins aren’t as simple as seeing who starts and who doesn’t.
“We don’t have starters or bench players; everyone is involved,” Aquino said. “When Becca starts, it’s because of certain skills that she has, and it’s the same with Megan. It’s a very good thing for our team because it gives us a lot of options.”