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Women’s volleyball’s strong kill record to play into strategy for Oregon match

UCLA women’s volleyball redshirt sophomore middle blocker Emily Ryan hit a perfect 1.000 with seven kills in UCLA’s sweep of then-No. 20 California on Friday, one of 45 kills the Bruins recorded in the match. (Keaton Larson/Daily Bruin)

By Lexi Grimes

Nov. 20, 2019 2:05 a.m.

The Bruins are killing it on the court.

UCLA women’s volleyball (14-11, 9-7 Pac-12) currently ranks third in the Pac-12 in kills per set, behind only No. 4 Stanford (20-4, 14-2) and No. 16 Utah (19-8, 11-5).

Over the weekend, UCLA played a total of six sets – three in a win against then-No. 20 California (20-6, 10-6) and three in a loss to Stanford. In those six sets, UCLA recorded a total of 86 kills, compared to its opponents’ 80.

Sixty-five percent of the points scored by the Bruins this weekend and about 80.5% of their points this season have come by way of the kill. This high percentage of kills can be attributed to the aggressive style of play that UCLA typically utilizes, said redshirt sophomore middle blocker Emily Ryan.

“Being aggressive is very important (for UCLA),” Ryan said. “Especially since we are an offensive team and playing many ranked opponents.”

Junior outside hitter Mac May currently ranks third in the Pac-12 in kills per set, while teammate senior outside hitter Savvy Simo ranks 14th. The two combined for 20 kills in Friday’s match against the Golden Bears and 16 in the match against the Cardinal.

“I think that when (May is) on serve, I’m doing everything I can to get balls so that she can keep taking shots,” Simo said. “I think that we just are really tight, great communicators and she’s a great player. If we can just stay confident in each other and get balls, it will be really good for the team.”

Despite UCLA’s ability to out-kill its opponents, the same cannot be said for the block battle. The Bruins are ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in total blocks this season, something that has proven to be detrimental when playing highly ranked teams. In their nine losses this season to ranked opponents, the Bruins were out-blocked in every match.

UCLA had a total of 10 blocks over the weekend, seven fewer than its opponents combined for. However, coach Michael Sealy does not view the struggles with blocking as a major issue for the Bruins, since it is not their style of play.

“We have never been a blocking team,” said Sealy. “(Momentum and kills) are very important – obviously everything helps when playing tough opponents.”

With its most recent game being a sweep by Stanford, UCLA is going into Friday’s game against Oregon (7-18, 3-13) on a one-game losing streak. When the Bruins played the Ducks on Oct. 18, they lost in three sets with only 40 kills.

However, UCLA has the advantage in kills per set, recording an average of 1.25 more kills per set than Oregon.

The Bruins only have four matches left and need to win at least one to qualify for the NCAA finals tournament in December.

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Lexi Grimes | Sports contributor
Grimes is currently a Sports contributor on the beach volleyball beat. She was previously a contributor on the women's volleyball beat.
Grimes is currently a Sports contributor on the beach volleyball beat. She was previously a contributor on the women's volleyball beat.
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