The Bruins will conclude the regular season with a four-game road trip that kicks off Thursday against the defending national champions.
No. 18 UCLA women’s volleyball (16-9, 9-7 Pac-12) will travel to face No. 4 Stanford (22-3, 15-1) on Thursday night and California (13-14, 4-12) on Sunday.
The 2016 NCAA national champions have continued their success with another dominant year – the Cardinal didn’t lose in conference play until last week.
Stanford has swept its opponents 16 times and is undefeated at home this year. The team leads the Pac-12 in hitting percentages, kills per set and assists per set.
UCLA lost to Stanford 3-1 at home by scores of 25-21, 20-25, 25-23 and 25-18 on Oct. 13. The Bruins struggled with a mere 0.121 hitting percentage but held the Cardinal to 0.181.
“That match was a lot closer than people think,” said coach Michael Sealy postgame.
Sealy was not concerned with the UCLA’s low hitting percentage against Stanford and thought it was an overall positive match for the Bruins. He said he thought the team played good defense but struggled with serve-receive. Stanford had 10 service aces against the Bruins, eight of which were from outside hitter Kathryn Plummer.
“(Plummer) had a big run in set four that brought them back in it and she had two runs in set three,” Sealy said. “So if we could’ve handled that one rotation a little better, it’s a whole different match.”
UCLA’s junior libero Zana Muno was sick and did not play against Stanford in their first matchup.
“It wasn’t just one person being gone. It changed everything as far as the logistics of who passed where,” Sealy said. “So just having Zana back, we’re back to that normal consistency.”
Muno has been vital on defense for UCLA, as she leads the Bruins in digs and averages the second-most digs per set in the Pac-12.
“She’s very important,” said junior middle blocker Kyra Rogers. “She’s definitely a leader on the court and she’s an amazing libero, so it’s great to have her back.”
Consistent serve-receive has been a focus for UCLA heading into the away matches.
“We’ve definitely served tough to the passers to practice getting desensitized to the tough serves,” Sealy said. “It’s been the goal the past couple days.”
After two days rest, UCLA will head to Berkeley to face California.
UCLA swept California in their first matchup on Oct. 14, outhitting them 0.323 to 0.156 and outscoring them 75-53.
In contrast to the Cardinal, the Golden Bears are near the bottom in almost all major statistical categories in the Pac-12. They have lost six of their last seven games, getting swept in each loss.
Serve-receive will again be important for UCLA, as California outside hitter Antzela Dempi leads the Pac-12 in service aces per set. The Bruins contained her to just one in their first matchup.
UCLA is coming off a 3-1 loss to Utah last week. The Utes had eight service aces to the Bruins’ two.
“(Serve-receive) is what killed us against Utah and it’s also what killed us against Stanford last time we played them,” Muno said. “If we can keep that under control and just stay aggressive in our serve-receive, then we should be good to go.”