Florida’s blocking proved too much for UCLA.
No. 15 seed UCLA women’s volleyball (21-10, 12-8 Pac-12)was defeated by No. 2 seed Florida (27-1, 17-1 SEC) in the Sweet 16 to end the Bruins’ season. The Gators tallied 14 total blocks over the Bruins’ five.
“You don’t just get to win a regional,” said coach Michael Sealy. “We talked all year about having to be really clean with the ball, (and) with a team like Florida, you’ve got to almost be perfect.”
There were 14 ties in the opening set, with neither team leading by more than 2 points throughout. Senior outside hitter Reily Buechler recorded six kills in the set and junior middle blocker Kyra Rogers tallied three kills late in the set to give the Bruins the lead. UCLA won the set 25-23 but was narrowly outhit by Florida .297 to .244.
Rogers posted 10 total kills in the match and led the Bruins hitting percentage with .368.
“Just beating them with speed was my game plan,” Rogers said. “One of them is about 9 inches taller than me and the other is 5 inches taller, so I was just trying to get up as fast as I could and beat the block.”
The Gators came back in set two, taking the lead at 2-1 and holding it throughout the set. Florida won 25-17, led by outside hitter Carli Snyder who tallied seven kills in the set and 18 on the match. The Gators’ defense held the Bruins to a .065 hitting percentage for the set.
Florida led by as many as 7 points in set three. UCLA went on a 5-0 run to get the set within 3 at 13-10, but the Gators posted seven blocks in the set to win it 25-17. The Bruins hit -.025 in the set.
“For me (the third set) was a turning point because as we closed the gap and got within 1 or 2 (points), we didn’t handle a free ball and missed a couple defensive assignments,” Sealy said. “Too many times I had to talk to players after a play, ‘Hey, you’re supposed to be standing there, not there.’”
UCLA was more effective against Florida’s block in the fourth set, hitting .214 in the set. The Bruins went on a 4-0 run early to go up 7-5, the team’s first 2-point lead since winning the first set. The Gators responded later in the set with a 6-point run to take the set 25-17 and end the Bruins’ season.
“The last three sets don’t look close on paper but there were some opportunities that we could’ve made more exciting and put some pressure on (Florida),” Sealy said. “We didn’t take care of some situations that we needed to.”
For Buechler, this was her final match as a Bruin. She led UCLA with 14 kills in the match.
“I’ve learned a lot, not only about volleyball but (also) about myself,” Buechler said. “It’s a bummer that it’s over, so that’s why i’m crying now but I’ll be smiling later tonight.”