The Bruins are finding their rhythm almost halfway through Pac-12 play.
No. 20 UCLA women’s volleyball (10-5, 5-3 Pac-12) has swept three teams in the last two weeks, including No. 25 Arizona and Arizona State.
The Bruins have started to establish a consistent rotation in the lineup, as coach Michael Sealy has only played eight players in the last three matches. In the first 12 games, nine to 11 players were expected to get play time.
“We do have a lot of depth and we can take in people from the bench, but it is helpful knowing who’s in and who’s next to you,” said sophomore outside hitter Jenny Mosser.
Freshman Devon Chang and junior Kylie Miller have split time at setter for the first part of the season.
The last three games, Miller has taken over the starting job, playing in all nine sets during the streak. Miller has averaged 11 assists per set in that time, surpassing the 8.48 she was averaging while splitting time at the position.
As for the offense, sophomore outside hitter Mac May continues to be a reliable attack option for the Bruins, with 3.53 kills per set – 0.93 kills more than anyone else on the team.
Despite the stable lineup, Sealy said he is not opposed to subbing in other players, as the real strength of the team is in their depth.
“I think this group has shown that they deserve to be considered starters,” Sealy said. “But we’re going to substitute as needed. If somebody needs a substitute we’ll use our bench, and we’re deep and we’re talented.”
Earlier this season, the Bruins struggled with playing consistently, as they were swept by No. 14 USC, No. 16 Oregon and No. 2 Stanford, and had to go to five sets against unranked California. UCLA especially ran into trouble in second sets, as it dropped that set in ten of its first 12 matches.
However, the Bruins have overcome this barrier in the last three games, as they have won their second sets by an average of 5.7 points.
“Honestly we got tired of losing the second set,” Mosser said. “We don’t want this anymore, we want to win in three. And we just came together and tried to get in that rhythm.”
The Bruins couldn’t get the attack going in their early Pac-12 defeats, recording an average hitting percentage of .136 in the losses. But that percentage has gotten up to .247 in the last two weeks, and the Bruins are averaging 14.11 kills per set.
UCLA has also emphasized serving harder, resulting in an increase in service aces.
“We were just too easy on our serving,” said senior libero Zana Muno. “So (Sealy) told us that he’s okay with us missing serves as long as we can get more consistent.”
The changes the Bruins have made will be tested in two road matches this weekend against No. 19 Washington and No. 23 Washington State.