The women’s volleyball team entered its first match against Oregon this season with a fully healthy roster, but left with its starting setter sidelined.
Now, as UCLA approaches the teams’ second matchup, its lineup has been retooled.
No. 9 UCLA (20-4, 11-3 Pac-12) will square off against Oregon (12-11, 6-8) Thursday night in Pauley Pavilion. The Ducks were ranked 25th when the teams last met Oct. 23, but the Bruins won that game three sets to one, and the Ducks have only gone 2-4 since, pushing them out of the rankings.
With both sophomore outside hitter Reily Buechler and redshirt sophomore setter Ryann Chandler day-to-day with injuries, UCLA decided to switch up its formation.
“We’re just running a two-passer system instead of a three,” said coach Michael Sealy. “Reily (Buechler) was a primary passer and she’s been out. Instead of throwing someone else into that spot, we just have our back row specialists covering more court.”
The strategic switch has helped ease the passing duties of freshman Kyra Rogers, forced to play at outside hitter after spending all four years of high school as a middle blocker.
Senior defensive specialist Karly Drolson said she wasn’t feeling any more pressure because of the added responsibility for the back-row players.
“We know how to pass,” Drolson said. “It’s fun, kind of. We’re just getting ready for (the new system) and we all have confidence in each other and I think we’re prepared to do two-man passing.”
As for Rogers, the new position has challenged her timing, forcing her to slow her approach.
“It’s completely different,” Rogers said. “I’m not going to lie, because I’m used to middle and I’m really fast, and it’s hard playing outside because I have to wait.”
For all the adjustments UCLA has made to its offense, Oregon’s will likely be the same as in the last match: fast.
“They’re very aggressive no matter what,” Rogers said. “They’re always swinging at the ball and they have a really big block up and they also don’t let a lot of balls hit the ground. So I think if we keep swinging and also be aggressive then we’ll have a good a chance of beating them.”
While Rogers hopes to match Oregon’s aggression on the offensive side, Drolson stressed the importance of scouting the opposition’s attack from a defensive standpoint.
“We just make sure we’re really watching (Oregon’s) hitters,” Drolson said. “We kind of need to know the routes they’re running before the coaches talk to us and just make sure we’re really on it. It’s just really important for us to really make sure we have our scouting report down.”
The Bruins play nearly all of their matches on Fridays and Sundays, but Thursday’s contest against the Ducks will be the second mid-week game of the home stand for the Bruins. UCLA will be coming off its longest gap of the season, having rested for five full days.
“It was a much needed and appreciated break,” Sealy said. “We actually got two days off in a row, which is the only time that happens from August right until the season ends in December.”
The Ducks, on the other hand, have a gap of just over 24 hours between the start of their match against USC on Wednesday and their match against UCLA on Thursday.