UCLA women’s volleyball started each set against Washington down 5-1 on Friday.
Against the Washington State Cougars on Sunday, the Bruins opened the match with a five-point run.
“We were joking in the timeout, the girls were teasing like, ‘Wow, this feels totally different,’” said coach Michael Sealy. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s almost like having a 10-point lead.’”
No. 13 UCLA (9-4, 2-2 Pacific-12) took down Washington State (12-4, 1-3) by scores of 25-12, 25-12, 22-25, 25-13.
The Bruins’ five-point run carried them to a set-one victory, and UCLA was also able to continue its initial momentum throughout the first two sets. The team hit .357 and .421 in the first and second sets respectively, compared to the Cougars’ -.133 and .156.
“We just ended up passing better,” said senior outside hitter Reily Buechler. “Whenever our passing is doing well, our offense is awesome, so we were able to get the first five points in most of the sets because we were passing so well.”
UCLA again took a quick lead in the third set, but the Cougars took advantage of two of the Bruins’ rotations for which senior setter Sarah Sponcil was in the front row to go on a 10-2 run, partially thanks to the Cougars’ 5.5 blocks in that set alone.
“They just got us in two of the two-hitter rotations where we had to go left side, and they’re big – they’re a good blocking team – so they camped out over there,” Sealy said. “When we’re balanced, we’re great and I think we were a little bit left-side dominant.”
Outside hitters Buechler and freshman Jenny Mosser took 86 total swings on the match – over 30 more than the other three hitters combined.
Buechler said the root of the problem in the third set was the same area of the game that the Bruins excelled in the first two sets – passing.
“If you don’t pass a good ball then they’re just going to release out and block Jenny (Mosser), and if we have only two hitters then you’re not going to be able to run an offense with (junior middle blocker) Kyra (Rogers), who runs a really fast ball because all we can do is set high balls,” Buechler said.
UCLA quickly rebounded to take the first four points of the fourth set. Junior libero Zana Muno said she was grateful for the opportunity to be tested and be forced to come back from behind.
“Our first two sets we kind of rolled through it and it was easy and we didn’t really get tested and then in the third set we finally got tested and we didn’t finish how we wanted to,” Muno said. “It gave us the opportunity to come from behind and get that forward momentum and that’s something that we’re going to need to use later on in the season.”
The Bruins were able to hold the Cougars to a .000 hitting percentage in set four and close out the match.