UCLA women’s volleyball had three service errors and a ball handling error in the final points of the fourth set, but Reily Buechler made up for it with four kills.
The senior outside hitter had a season-high 26 kills on the night, including 10 in the first set alone.
“No matter how many missed serves we had, there was zero loss of confidence,” Buechler said. “We were going to go out and play as well as we could and give it our all because it could’ve been our last chance.”
The No. 15-seeded UCLA (21-10, 12-8 Pac-12) defeated Cal Poly (27-3, 16-0 Big West) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, outhitting the Mustangs .282 to .178.
UCLA took the first two points of the match on kills from Buechler, but Cal Poly soon answered with a five-point run to give the Mustangs a 8-5 lead. The set remained tight with 10 ties and five lead changes. Despite Buechler’s 10 kills in the set, the Bruins were outhit .200 to .286 and dropped the set 28-26.
“I’m surprised we got to where it was. They made a couple of miraculous digs,” said coach Michael Sealy. “So for me, I was really surprised that we had an opportunity to win that one.”
UCLA held the lead throughout set two, hitting .271 against Cal Poly’s .152. Buechler tallied another seven kills, hitting .421 after the set. Middle blockers junior Kyra Rogers and sophomore Madeleine Gates combined for five kills and the Bruins took the set 25-19.
The Bruins trailed 11-8 in the third set, but then took the lead at 12-11 and never trailed through the rest of the set. Sophomore libero/defensive specialist Savvy Simo took her first swings of the season and recorded two kills in the set as UCLA won it 25-16.
Simo played both front and back row for the last two sets, stepping in for freshman outside hitter Jenny Mosser. Despite only playing front row for two sets, she finished the night with eight kills, the fourth most for a Bruin hitter.
“It was really nerve-racking,” Simo said. “I’ve always wanted to hit, and seeing Jenny get hurt, I wasn’t sure if I was going to come in or not. But I knew just to be ready because wherever the team needs me I’m going to step up.”
UCLA was down 13-11 in set four, but grabbed the lead at 15-14 and maintained it for the remainder of the match. Led by Buechler, the Bruins took home the set 25-18.
Cal Poly opposite Torrey Van Winden transferred from UCLA following last season, when she ranked third in kills for the Bruins with 304. Van Winden recorded 16 kills in the match, hitting a percentage of .145.
“It helped us that we just played USC last week and (outside hitter) Khalia Lanier had 50-something swings and hit for a huge percentage, so we were able to use that as the analogy,” Sealy said. “I just think that our game plan of where the blockers were going to be and where the defense was going to be, we just put a lot on her plate.”
Following this second round win, UCLA will travel to Gainesville, Florida, to face No. 2-seeded Florida in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.