Women’s volleyball bids farewell to 2 seniors following NCAA tournament loss
Senior outside hitter Savvy Simo is one of the two seniors who wrapped up their career with UCLA women’s volleyball last weekend, as the Bruins fell to No. 4 seed Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA tournament. (Daanish Bhatti/Daily Bruin)
By Coral Smith
Dec. 12, 2019 7:24 p.m.
Despite their season coming to an end over the weekend, the Bruins are still moving toward next season with hope.
UCLA women’s volleyball’s (19-12, 13-7 Pac-12) 2019 season came to a close Saturday afternoon with a loss to No. 4 seed Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA tournament, which senior outside hitter Savvy Simo said was bittersweet since last year’s team didn’t qualify for the postseason.
“Especially coming off of such a tough season last year, it was really great (to get this far),” Simo said. “The road hasn’t been easy, and (the future is) not going to be easy, either.”
The 2018 team was the first in program history to finish the season with a losing record, as well as the first since 2013 to miss out on the postseason.
The Bruins avoided a similar fate this season, securing a winning record with three games left on the schedule and finishing the regular season ranked No. 24 in national polls after winning their final four games.
UCLA started off its season by going 5-4 in its nonconference slate. The Bruins then opened Pac-12 play with a rivalry match against then-No. 25 USC and defeated the Trojans in five sets – UCLA’s first win over a ranked opponent this season.
The USC game also marked the return of senior setter Cali Thompson from an ankle injury, one of just two players for the Bruins who will be graduating this spring. Thompson spent her final year of eligibility at UCLA after transferring from Portland in the spring, and after returning to the court, split time at setter for the rest of the year, collecting 500 assists and 162 digs along the way.
While the Bruins struggled at points versus the lowest-ranked Pac-12 teams, as they lost to Colorado and Oregon and narrowly defeated Oregon State, UCLA defeated ranked California twice and handed then-No. 2 Stanford its first three-set loss since 2015.
Junior outside hitter Mac May said these wins over highly ranked teams were indicative of the true talent of the 2019 squad and the growth the team has experienced, both from 2018 and throughout this season.
“From the start of the season to the end of it, we’ve made great strides,” May said. “Even from last year, I’m just incredibly proud of the entire team and how hard we’ve worked, … and just everything we’ve done this season is going to push us forward to next season.”
May was named Pac-12 Player of the Year after leading the conference in service aces per set with 0.36 and finishing second in kills per set with 4.77 for the regular season.
May was also named to the All-Pac-12 First Team, along with Simo – the other Bruin who has wrapped up her career at UCLA.
Simo spent her first three years as a libero due to lingering injuries, but as she was finally fully healed in 2019, the senior moved to outside hitter. Simo finished second on the team in kills and digs at her new position, also recording nine double-doubles over the course of the season.
Coach Michael Sealy said the influence of both of this year’s seniors was integral to UCLA’s success this season, as they made the rest of the players around them better.
“Even listening to other coaches from the Pac-12 talk about (Simo), they see that she’s the glue that really holds a lot of it together,” Sealy said. “And (Thompson) the same way, she’s so consistent with her offense that she gives a lot of people more confidence.”
Though the Bruins will have to say goodbye to these seniors as their comeback season has drawn to a close, May said she’s still proud of her team and what they accomplished.
“I’m very proud of how we finished,” May said. “We would have liked to have gone further, but (we are) by no means disappointed.”