UCLA’s spike attempt rebounded off the opposing block and fell straight down, right in front of Tabi Love.
For a split second, the senior outside hitter stopped, as if frozen.
Then she snapped back to reality, only to see the ball hit the ground for a Stanford point late in the fourth set.
Love clutched her hands to her head, her mouth ajar.
That feeling of disbelief plagued UCLA constantly in their 3-1 loss to No. 2 Stanford (25-3, 17-1 Pac-12) on Friday.
The No. 7 Bruins (21-6, 13-5) fell behind 0-5 in the first set, and never led in the first two.
But after overcoming the initial shock, a reenergized UCLA team displayed stronger, gutsier play in the third and fourth sets.
“I think coming into the third set we all came together in the locker room and said, “˜Hey, we got to bring the energy.’ You know we were flat the first two sets (but) we came out fighting. And we found some momentum, definitely took it and ran with it,” said junior outside hitter Kelly Reeves.
It’s this momentum the team will look to build upon when they face No. 6 Oregon (23-4, 14-4) tonight.
What the Bruins aren’t looking to repeat is another slow start in a pivotal game.
“We learned (from the Stanford game) that we have to start focused. We have to start fired up. We have to start together. Point by point, just fight,” said junior middle blocker Mariana Aquino.
Despite playing almost every other Pac-12 school twice already, UCLA will play Oregon for the first time all year.
“Oregon’s going to present a whole different set of challenges that we haven’t seen all the year. They run an offense that we haven’t seen all year. … It’s a good way to prepare for the tournament,” said assistant coach Dan O’Dell.
With only one week until the NCAA tournament, every game has become that much more significant.
“I think every game is a way to keep growing and developing before the tournament, and we have two more games left. If we can just get that little bit better, than we’ll be fine in the tournament,” O’Dell said.
Although that final step will be no easy task for the Bruins, it is one they have undertaken before.
“(That little bit better) is just heart. It’s desire. It’s that goal of making that big play when you need to make the big play. We have it at times ““ we definitely had it last year ““ and it’s just we got to get that.” O’Dell said.