UCLA women’s volleyball had beaten Utah in 20 of their last 22 match-ups.
In the absence of freshman outside hitter Mac May, the Utes beat the Bruins in four sets.
“It’s definitely a big bummer for us,” said junior libero Zana Muno. “(May) is obviously a phenomenal player for us and it’s also just hard for any adjustment.”
No. 13 UCLA (13-6, 6-4 Pac 12) fell to No. 12 Utah (17-4, 8-2) in four sets Friday but regrouped for a five-set win against Colorado (15-6, 5-5) on Saturday.
The team didn’t find out that May was too sick to travel until Thursday, leaving little time to practice a new lineup.
“The fact that she wasn’t there (Saturday) was definitely an eye opener for us for how much we depend on her,” said senior outside hitter Reily Buechler. “But it was really cool to see the girls step up, especially (sophomore opposite) Jamie (Robbins), who hasn’t been able to play a college match her entire life and was able to come in and make plays we haven’t even seen her make before.”
Against Utah, UCLA posted low hitting percentages of .088 and -.020 in the third and fourth sets, respectively.
“We weren’t playing our usual defense,” Buechler said. “We weren’t passing as well so we weren’t able to run an offense.”
The Utes recorded their sixth consecutive conference win, achieving their longest conference winning streak since joining the league in 2011.
“There were some miraculous rallies both ways, so it was really cool to see both teams grinding it out,” said coach Michael Sealy. “They executed defense and probably ran a little bit more precision offense compared to ours.”
Less than 24 hours after losing to Utah, UCLA had to travel to face Colorado.
“Normally when we travel to away games, we fly and we go practice right away, so they’re kind of used to it,” Sealy said. “We had to come to altitude, play a five-set match on back-to-back nights and I thought we were better at the end than we were at the beginning.”
The Bruins took the first set, but were outhit .375 to .179. and .286 to .167 in the second and third sets, respectively.
“Second set, nothing went right, it was just a bad one,” Sealy said. “Third set, we had opportunities but we didn’t make plays at crucial times.”
Colorado outside hitter Alexa Smith amassed a career-high 27 kills and had 17 digs.
“You have no idea, she’s a stud and she doesn’t make any errors,” Buechler said.
UCLA saved three game points to eventually take set four. The set featured 11 ties and seven lead changes.
In the fifth set, back-to-back kills by freshman outside hitter Jenny Mosser saved a fourth match point and also gave the Bruins their first match point. A Colorado attack error then awarded them the set 16-14.
Mosser posted a career-high 28 kills and committed only six hitting errors in the match. Senior setter Sarah Sponcil achieved season bests with 63 assists, 25 digs and six blocks.
“Sarah did a really good job of distributing the sets and giving the balls to the outsides,” Mosser said. “Our passing was there so we were able to do that and I just did my job.”
Overall, Sealy said he felt satisfied with how UCLA’s weekend concluded.
“That was probably the best win of the year because we had to overcome more adversity than usual with injuries and illness and all that stuff, so it’s good for the team to find a way to win,” Sealy said.