Today, 8 p.m.
When UCLA last played Washington a month ago, coach Michael Sealy’s squad jumped out to a 6-3 fifth set lead, then slowly let that lead slip away in one of the season’s toughest losses. This weekend, the Bruins get their chance to erase those painful memories.
No. 6 UCLA (15-4, 7-3 Pac-12) plays No. 5 Washington (17-2, 8-2) on Sunday, after first facing Washington State (10-12, 0-10) today.
Much has changed for the Bruins since that heartbreaking night in Seattle, including the team’s switch to a faster offense. The new system’s execution, however, has experienced its ups and downs.
Senior outside hitter Tabi Love is looking for more than just consistency from the offense this weekend.
“I think we need to keep running our offense quickly and try to stay in system as much as we can. A bigger thing is that we can’t always control if we’re going to be as fluid or not, so I think we just have to be really aggressive,” Love said. “We have to go after every ball and make every point count.”
Lately, UCLA has also earned a reputation for not being able to finish close games.
The Bruins are 1-3 in five-set matches this season, and have been tied or held the lead late in the fifth set of all three of those losses.
“It just kind of shows we aren’t our best in pressure situations. We really need to be better when it’s close, especially in the fifth set,” said senior outside hitter Rachael Kidder.
“Every fifth set we have played, we’ve actually had the lead, and we’ve let other teams come back and take it from us. So I think our main focus is just finishing those games when they’re tight.”
All three of their five-set losses have come against top-ranked teams, contributing to UCLA’s woeful 0-4 mark against teams ranked in the top five this season.
UCLA will get another chance to break the win column in that category against Washington.
The challenge, though, will be to not only fixate on Sunday’s marquee matchup, but to focus on Friday’s match against Washington State as well.
On paper, the Cougars, who have lost 10 straight overall and 19 in a row to the Bruins, seem like an easy out for the Bruins, but Sealy doesn’t believe his team will get caught looking ahead.
“We’ve never overlooked an opponent. We’re not going to focus on Washington until Saturday morning for our Sunday match. It (has been) all preparation for Washington State (up until now),” Sealy said.
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