UCLA women’s volleyball was down early in set one, quickly falling behind 5-1.
With his team trailing 8-3, coach Michael Sealy pulled a move USC couldn’t have seen coming.
After running a 5-1 formation throughout his entire career at UCLA, Sealy swapped out his setter and his opposite, revealing that he would be running a 6-2.
“It was a total curveball,” said freshman setter Kylie Miller.
The new formation worked, as the No. 9 Bruins (10-1, 1-0 Pac-12) outscored the No. 21 Trojans (8-4, 0-1) 20-14 through the rest of set one and ultimately won the match 3-1.
The new system meant Sealy had to play senior outside hitter Jordan Anderson in the back row, as using a defensive specialist would cause him to dip into too many of his 15 subs.
Anderson ranked second on the team with 15 digs and picked up an ace, but committed four service errors. On the pins, she added 11 kills and a .321 hitting percentage.
Sealy had some extra subs in set two, so he ended up inserting freshman defensive specialist Savvy Simo with his team down 19-17, but the substitution couldn’t get UCLA the set-two win, as the Bruins dropped the set 25-21.
Anderson played back row again in set three, a game that UCLA took 25-20. The Bruins hit .455 in the set, and went into the fourth set with a chance to win the match.
There, UCLA led by as many as nine throughout the early stages, but the set tightened up towards the end, with Sealy calling a timeout leading 22-21. USC won the longest rally of the match to go up 24-23, but the Bruins wouldn’t let them carry the momentum any further than that, closing out the set 29-27 to win their first match of conference play.
“It was crazy. I couldn’t breathe,” said junior outside hitter Reily Buechler. “The energy out there is so much fun. Everyone at ‘SC just gets so fired up that we’re playing them.”
Stats and facts
Buechler posted a season-best and match-high 21 kills despite having to take sets from two setters instead of just Ryann Chandler, who the junior outside hitter has been playing with since she was 12.
“It’s fun, it’s new. I really like Kylie’s sets as well,” Buechler said. “Ryann and I have been playing together for so long, so I kind of know what’s going on with her, but Kylie and I have been clicking in practice.”
Both Sealy and Buechler said that the 6-2 was key to her success because having more attackers in the mix meant blockers couldn’t commit to blocking Buechler.
There was, however, a long drop-off from Buechler’s match-leading 21 kills to the next-best attacker. Anderson was 10 behind with 11 kills, freshman opposite Torrey Van Winden notched eight and the middles combined for 17.
On the match, Chandler had 30 assists while Miller had 21.