UCLA Bruins have fallen to the Arizona Wildcats in their past three matchups, but coach Michael Sealy is paying little attention to the past results.
“We don’t think about it too much,” Sealy said. “It’s a whole new team and last year is last year.”
No. 13 UCLA (9-4, 2-2 Pac-12) women’s volleyball will be looking to avenge those losses at unranked Arizona (7-6, 1-3) Wednesday.
The Wildcats saw the graduation of a couple of key players including outside hitter Kalei Mau, who collected 21 kills and hit .367 in the match at UCLA last season, and 2016 Pac-12 Setter of the Year Penina Snuka.
The two games that the Bruins lost against the Wildcats last year were a 3-0 sweep at Tucson, Arizona, and a 3-2 in which UCLA won the first two sets but lost the following three.
Senior outside hitter Reily Buechler, a junior then, was the only Bruin to record double digits in kills in the match at Arizona. In UCLA’s most recent match, Buechler led the Bruins with 21 kills in UCLA’s four-set victory over Washington State. She recorded just one error, good for a .465 hitting percentage.
“Still love picking on Arizona. … It’s a really hard place to play at – they get really rowdy playing us at their home,” Buechler said. “I’m not thinking about the past losses and am just going into this game with confidence.”
Arizona has lost its previous three matches. Its only Pac-12 win came against Arizona State, a team that has yet to win a Pac-12 game.
The Wildcats have struggled with inconsistency in their games this season. In its most recent loss to California, Arizona committed seven errors in the fifth set alone.
Sophomore Kendra Dahlke leads the Wildcats in kills, averaging 4.13 kills per set in Pac-12 play – the fifth-most in the conference. Sophomore setter Julia Patterson, tasked with replacing All-American Snuka, is averaging 10.67 assists per set, the fourth-most in the Pac-12.
“They’re always a very scrappy team, always very hard hitting (and) pretty tall,” Buechler said. “They just get after it no matter what so we just gotta get ready for that.”
Bruins’ senior setter Sarah Sponcil said that starting strong and serving tough, which they have been working on in practice, are keys to winning.
UCLA was able to start well against Washington State with a 5-point run in the first set, which they said contributed to its initial momentum and eventual victory.
“(For) every set we need to start strong because against Washington we started (down) 5-1 in each set so it was hard to catch up,” Sponcil said. “We’ve got to come out with all the energy and be focused on serves.”