The Bruins ended the regular season with a win.
On Friday night, No. 23 UCLA women’s volleyball (18-11, 13-7 Pac-12) defeated crosstown rival USC (17-13, 11-9) to end its regular season with a four-game winning streak. Senior outside hitter Savvy Simo said this strong finish means a lot to a team that, last year, was not eligible for the NCAA tournament.
“It’s incredible,” Simo said. “We didn’t have a good season last year but we came out, we kept fighting. I’m so proud of this team and the way that we fought, and we will see where the playoffs take us.”
The Bruins outperformed the Trojans in almost every aspect of the game Friday night, securing their second victory over the Trojans after a 3-2 home win Sept. 25. This time, UCLA swept USC in three sets.
The first set was a mostly even matchup, with four lead changes and eight tied scores. This included a tied score of 21-21, the last tie of the set before the Bruins recorded four of the next five points, winning the first set 25-22.
UCLA was much more dominant in the second set, recording an early lead of 7-2 and leading for the entirety of the set. The team won the second set with a score of 25-17.
The third set also featured an early lead of 7-2, although this time not in the Bruins’ favor. However, UCLA fought back and was able to win the final set 28-26.
The Bruins recorded 47 kills, eight more than the Trojans, and four aces, three more than the Trojans. UCLA also recorded a higher hitting percentage than USC and had three fewer attacking errors. Coach Michael Sealy attributed the Bruins’ success in every area of the game to their excitement to finish the season with a win, and to Thanksgiving turkey.
“I think they were refreshed after taking Thanksgiving off,” Sealy said. “They were excited to come in here, end the regular season and send the seniors off on a good note.”
During the season of giving thanks, seniors Simo and setter Cali Thompson were extremely grateful, for both the memorable send-off and the entire season.
“(This ending is) absolutely awesome – it means the world to me,” Thompson said. “It’s been such a great opportunity for me to meet this team, play with them, and it’s just amazing to be here.”
Simo shared much of the same sentiments as her teammate, reflecting back on the course of the season with UCLA.
“I think that the team has just come together so much,” Simo said. “We really rely on each other, and I think that we have really just come together as a whole.”
The Bruins will carry that unity into the beginning of tournament play starting next week. Sealy believes tournament play will be much different than the regular season, since most of the teams will be ranked and new opponents.
The Bruins have won six of their 14 matches against ranked teams this season, despite being underdogs in all of them, and will have a chance to continue that performance in the tournament. Thompson said the momentum of their four-game winning streak might just be the extra spark the Bruins need.
“I think it just gives us more power,” Thompson said. “We’re doing good things, and (the win streak) is just giving us more energy, getting us more fired up and more confident.”
The Bruins will have to wait until Sunday for their tournament seeding.