It was an emotional end to last year’s season for the UCLA women’s volleyball team.
The team was unable to defend its national championship from 2012, and lost at home to Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Afterward, it was time to say goodbye to then-seniors Rachael Kidder, Tabi Love and Bojana Todorovic, all who were starters last season.
But seeing players go is a process that the Bruins face every year. The team has regrouped and moved on from last year’s loss to concentrate on the fall season beginning in August.
For coach Michael Sealy, there isn’t a clear picture of what the team will look like at the beginning of the season.
“There are so many question marks that I really have no idea what (the season) is going to be like,” Sealy said. “There (are) a lot of new players, new positions, (and) I have some girls coming off from their injuries so I’m not sure which system is going to work best for us yet.”
Inconsistency haunted the team all season last year, but this year, there are other aspects that could challenge the team. Sealy said he believes that it is going to be crucial for players to stay physically and mentally strong, and he said he wants to concentrate on the cohesiveness of the team.
Rising junior outside hitter Karsta Lowe said that it is difficult to lose players, especially when the team has good chemistry, but she sees this year’s team being as strong as the group that won the national title in 2012.
“Obviously players leaving affects the team, but I think that we have players that are capable of filling in the same position … and we are still very capable of winning as a team,” Lowe said. “We are all very close, and I think we are even closer as a team than we were when we won the national championship.”
As several key players from last year move on, the Bruins will welcome six new members to the team this season. Five of these players are freshmen, and one of the new members, rising junior Monica Stauber, is a transfer student from the University of Hawai’i.
While the new faces try to fill in the shoes of the departed seniors, some familiar ones could also make an impact. As one of the team’s key returning players, rising senior outside hitter Kelly Reeves said she hopes to help guide the team toward its goals.
“I think that just going into this season, my personal goal and maybe the team goal that we want to accomplish is to win the Pac-12 conference,” Reeves said. “I think that is a really good goal because it’s such a tough conference. We got Stanford and ‘SC – they’re really good teams and any given weekend anyone can win.”
Going into her final season as a Bruin, Reeves said she sees this year as an opportunity for her to enjoy the last of her collegiate career.
“This is my last year. It is my last chance to try to make a statement and I just want to enjoy (the season) with my teammates one last time – just have fun with it, create new memories and just lead by example,” Reeves said. “I want to make an impression, but I just want to be there for my team more than anything.”