UCLA dominated sets one and two. The third and fourth sets were the complete opposite.
“It was an entire team collapse,” said senior outside hitter Jordan Anderson. “The wheels came flying off and we were able to slowly put them back on for that fifth set.”
No. 12 UCLA women’s volleyball (17-4, 8-3 Pac-12) jumped ahead 2-0, but Colorado (12-9, 4-7) took sets three and four. The Bruins looked to avenge a 3-1 loss to the Buffaloes earlier this month, and a fifth set was all that stood in the way of letting Colorado pull off another upset.
UCLA hit .098 and .068 in the third and fourth set, respectively, but returned to form and hit .276 in set five to win the match.
A four-point service run by junior outside hitter Reily Buechler gave the Bruins a 6-3 lead, and they never trailed again. Kills from freshman opposite Torrey Van Winden and senior middle blocker Jennie Frager closed out the match 15-9 in favor of UCLA.
Coach Michael Sealy opted to insert redshirt senior Haley Lawless in the game at opposite to start set five. Lawless brought more size to the court, playing in the front row rotations that usually belong to smaller sophomore Zana Muno.
“She was a real game changer,” Anderson said. “She came in, blocked two balls and just brought so much momentum and so much fire. She is our senior captain and it’s great to see her out on the court.”
At the beginning of the match, the Bruins jumped out to a 4-1 lead and never trailed through the set one. UCLA held Colorado to a .189 hitting percentage in its 25-16 win.
The Bruins, on the other hand, hit .472, and they hit hard.
“Everybody was teeing off,” Sealy said.”We passed perfect, so the setters were able to get everybody perfect situations. … We were absolutely in control.”
Set two started a lot closer – the score was tied four times and UCLA didn’t lead by more than three points until it hit 17 – but the Bruins still pulled out another 25-16 victory.
Through the first two sets, senior middle Frager remained errorless with eight kills, and Anderson led the team with 10 kills.
Down 20-14, the Bruins were faced with their greatest deficit of the match thus far in set 3, and the Buffalos took the third set 25-19.
UCLA struggled in the third set primarily because of a string of hitting errors to start the match – five before either team reached double digits – and ended the set hitting just .098.
The fourth set was a similar story, and the Bruins lost 25-19 to squander their two-set lead.
“In the end of the fourth, Sealy just kind of said, ‘Hey, you guys need to be okay with losing this one, we’ve gotta pick up the stamina and figure out what we’re going to do to win the next one,’” Frager said.
UCLA regained some momentum from four end-of-set kills by Buechler, but Colorado’s lead was just too big to recover from.
The match didn’t end as quickly as the Bruins might have anticipated after such dominant first two sets, but Sealy said he sees matches like these as a good learning experience for the team.
“In the hindsight, yeah it’s stressful going to a fifth set like that,” Sealy said. “But I told the team after, ‘Those are the kind of matches you’re going to get in the NCAA Tournament.’ … If we stay great, we roll them in three and get out of there, yeah that’s a nice a win, but we didn’t really learn a whole lot.”
The Bruins face off against No. 21Utah Saturday for their last home game before hitting the road next week.