Friday 8 p.m.
Last Sunday, the women’s volleyball team answered a few questions when they defeated then-No. 5 Washington, especially those concerning its ability to win against elite teams.
This weekend, current No. 5 UCLA (17-4, 9-3 Pac-12) has the opportunity to answer another question that has crept up throughout the season: Can the Bruins win consistently on the road?
The Bruins have been impossible to beat at home this year. Things on the road haven’t been quite as perfect; UCLA heads into this weekend with a 5-4 road record.
Friday will mark the start of a four-game road trip for the defending national champions. The importance of this trip is heightened by the fact that this will be one of the last chances for the Bruins to acclimate themselves to playing on the road before the postseason.
“I think this will be a good test for us,” assistant coach Dan O’Dell said. “We need to make sure we’re winning outside of our gym because, come tournament time, we’re going to have to win in different environments.”
UCLA will face Arizona (12-11, 4-8) today and Arizona State (15-10, 4-8) on Saturday. While UCLA came away with dominant victories against both of these teams earlier in the season, recent history shows that facing them in their home gyms could be tough.
“I think our game plan will pretty much be the same as last time, but we just have to keep in mind that both of these teams have proved capable of beating us in the past, so we need to bring our A-game,” junior defensive specialist Meg Norton said.
Arizona defeated visiting UCLA last year, and two years ago Arizona State did the same.
Past results may encourage the Arizona schools, but present-day momentum favors UCLA. The Bruins have won five matches in a row and eight of their last nine, a run that bodes well for the team as they enter the last month of the regular season. The streak has not only had a positive effect on the team’s place in the rankings, but also on the team’s attitude.
“It (the streak) has been really important, especially for our confidence and just to keep a winning spirit within the team,” Norton said.
“When we lose, it’s not very good for your confidence, but when we keep winning, it helps us practice harder and makes us more willing to keep working.”
This weekend will also mark the first time the Bruins have to play games on back-to-back days all season. The change won’t be completely foreign, though, considering that back-to-back games were common last year and during the preseason. It will be business as usual for the Bruins.
“I think we’re just going to take on one team at a time,” said sophomore middle blocker ZoÃ« Nightingale. “After we’re done with one team, we’re going to immediately go on to the next.”