The Bruins will go back on the road again.
UCLA women’s volleyball (8-5, 3-1 Pac-12) will face No. 18 Utah (11-4, 3-1) and Colorado (8-6, 0-4) for the Bruins’ first away games of conference play.
Despite these being the team’s first Pac-12 away games, sophomore setter Devon Chang said the Bruins should have no problem adjusting, since they spent the entirety of their nonconference schedule on the road.
“Playing on the road, you’re tired, you have school, you’re thinking of a lot of different things,” Chang said. “But at the same time, this team is used to playing on the road, we played all of (nonconference) on the road, too, so it’s something we’re good at – traveling and taking care of business.”
Last weekend, UCLA faced No. 24 Washington State and then-No. 8 Washington and came away with an upset over the former in three sets. But the Bruins couldn’t hold on for a win against the Huskies, falling in four sets for their first Pac-12 loss of the season.
After its 3-1 start, UCLA is now sitting right outside the top-25, having received nine votes in the latest NCAA poll.
Despite the Bruins’ recent success, sophomore libero Kelli Barry said the team still wants to focus on each team individually and not how they stack up to each other.
“It motivates us to just work harder,” Barry said. “No matter what the ranking is, every single day we have to come into the gym expecting every team we play to be better, and to come out strong against us. … So we have to treat every team as if they are top-25.”
With a 3-1 conference record, UCLA is tied for first place in the conference with three other teams – including its first opponent of the weekend, Utah.
The Utes started off their season with eight straight wins but broke that streak when they lost three straight nonconference matches, starting with a 3-1 defeat to the then-No. 6 Pittsburgh Panthers. Utah proceeded to lose its next two matches, falling in five sets to unranked Cal Poly and in four sets to then-No. 12 BYU.
The Utes have won three of their four matches so far in Pac-12 play, only falling to then-No. 24 Oregon in five sets.
Utah is led by outside hitter Dani Drews, who ranks fifth in the conference with 4.16 kills per set, just below UCLA junior outside hitter Mac May – who averages 4.55 for third in the conference.
Coach Michael Sealy said Drews and the other Utah hitters present a special challenge for the Bruins because they are left-handed.
“Utah has two lefties on the floor, so it’s a different look you don’t normally see,” Sealy said.
Utah also leads the Pac-12 in blocks per set with 2.96, something Sealy said has been a consistent part of the Utes’ program for years.
“That’s (Utah’s) M.O. It’s what their program’s always been based upon,” Sealy said. “So they do have great block defense, … and they’re always consistent in that area.”
Colorado has not found the same early success as Utah, as it comes into the weekend as the only team without a conference win so far. But the Buffaloes were 8-2 in nonconference games, and posted a three-set victory over then-No. 5 Illinois.
“We’ve gotten better at not differentiating our opponents,” Sealy said. “We know we’re in the Pac-12, we know everyone’s good, some of the teams that have a slower start are more hungry for the win, and Colorado’s always been a really good team, so we don’t treat them any differently.”
Friday’s match against Utah will start at 6 p.m., and Sunday’s match against Colorado will be at 1 p.m.