Friday, 6:45 p.m.
As the end of the women’s volleyball season draws near, fans and followers can look forward to what’s sure to be a gripping final month.
The Bruins will play at the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion, they will face three consecutive top 10 teams to close out the regular season, and they will head into the NCAA tournament as defending champions for the first time in 20 years.
That same luxury of foresight will have to be constrained for the UCLA women’s volleyball team, who still must overcome a difficult task at hand this weekend before moving on to its late-season stretch.
“I think about it (late season games) all the time because it’s going to be really fun, but when our team is in practice or when we’re playing other teams we’re not really thinking about it, it’s more of just a side note,” said senior outside hitter Rachael Kidder. “When we walk past Pauley it’s like, “˜Look, we get to play in there!’, but for the most part we’re focused on the games this weekend.”
This weekend brings the last two-game road trip for the Bruins in the regular season.
No. 6 UCLA (18-5, 10-4 Pac-12) will face Colorado (14-12, 4-10) tonight and Utah (12-15, 3-11) on Saturday night.
The Bruins handily defeated both teams at home in their first meeting earlier in the year, but time and time again, beating teams on the road has proven to be a more difficult challenge than doing it at home.
UCLA has failed to go 2-0 in its last four two-game road trips, but coach Michael Sealy doesn’t think consistency on the road will be a problem heading forward. Instead, Sealy is focused more on improving his team’s overall style of play after a shocking defeat last week at the hands of Arizona.
“I think in the Arizona match, we played very safe,” Sealy said. “We can’t play safe and be successful in this conference. I don’t think you can play safe and be successful in the tournament, so we’re going to just have to let it loose and go.”
Letting loose is one of many things the Bruins will focus on this weekend; the offense will look to develop a faster gear and be more consistent overall after a poor showing against the Wildcats.
But regardless of the reason for the loss, the important thing is how easily they have put the loss behind them.
“If you keep thinking about it and if you keep putting yourself down because of it then you’re never going to be able to get back to winning,” said junior middle blocker Mariana Aquino. “We’re doing a good job of turning that loss into a lesson learned.”
During practice this week, the team tried to do just that.
“Every time there’s a loss, we’re going to have a better week of practice just because we know we have a lot to work on,” Kidder said. “It kind of gives you that kick in the butt to get going again. And also we’re coming close to the end of the season, so we just want to make sure every practice is worth it.”