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UCLA women’s volleyball to take on Wisconsin in NCAA regional semifinal matchup

Coach Michael Sealy squats during a match. Sealy and No. 13 seed UCLA women’s volleyball will take on No. 4 seed Wisconsin in the NCAA regional semifinals Thursday. (Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin staff)

Women's Volleyball


No. 4 seed Wisconsin
Thursday, 2 p.m.

UW Field House
ESPNU

By Bryan Palmero

Dec. 9, 2021 12:01 p.m.

It has been a decade since the Bruins’ last national championship.

Since then, the players have come and gone, and the jerseys once donned are forever changed, but Michael Sealy has remained a constant.

But despite their differences, the 12th-year coach said both Bruin squads have much in common.

“That team (and) this team are very similar, and the road is very similar,” Sealy said. “It was a team that was really, really good, had some ups and downs. (Going) into the tournament, we were in the death bracket.”

On the 10-year anniversary of its 2011 NCAA regional semifinal triumph, No. 13 seed UCLA women’s volleyball (25-5, 16-4 Pac-12) will head to the Badger State to take on No. 4 seed Wisconsin (27-3, 17-3 Big Ten) on Thursday afternoon. The Badgers are the first seeded team the Bruins will face in this playoff run, headlining a regional slate featuring No. 5 seed Baylor and No. 12 seed Minnesota.

On Dec. 9, 2011, UCLA took on then-No. 8 seed Penn State in the third round of the tournament. With Rachael Kidder at the helm, the Bruins swept the Nittany Lions en route to their fourth NCAA championship – after which the outside hitter was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.

10 years later, Sealy said the 2021 Bruins hold the potential to take it all the way.

The last time UCLA faced Wisconsin was in a 2019 NCAA tournament second-round loss. As a then-junior, graduate student outside hitter/opposite Mac May led the contest in kills and points, but Badger middle blocker Dana Rettke’s 10 kills and four blocks sent the Bruins packing following the three-set defeat.

As history hangs over Thursday’s matchup, May said she expects both teams to play to their styles – which for the blue and gold is playing freely.

“I expect them to be very consistent, very powerful as they have been this season and in years past,” May said. “For us, coming in and having that kind of detached focus to the game, … that’ll be huge.”

Sealy said his team has its eyes on the 6-foot-8 Rettke, the graduate student on the other side of the net.

“She’s obviously been a franchise player for a lot of years now,” Sealy said. “With Rettke, you’ve got to have your block and defense both in sync and you just try to slow her down. I’m not sure if you can actually stop her.”

In Saturday’s second-round matchup, UCLA limited UCF outside hitter McKenna Melville – the country’s leader in kills – to a .000 hitting percentage. Behind 10 blocks from sophomore outside hitter/opposite Iman Ndiaye and eight rejections from freshman middle blocker Francesca Alupei – both career highs – the Bruins tied their season high for block assists in a single match in the comeback victory.

With the regional semifinal contest looming, senior outside hitter/opposite élan McCall said the team’s second-round performance is a match to look back on.

“It gave us the confidence that we can outlast and we can go on for however long that match lasts,” McCall said.

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Bryan Palmero | Assistant Sports editor
Palmero is currently an assistant Sports editor on the softball, beach volleyball, women's volleyball, men's volleyball and men's golf beats. He was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball and women's volleyball beats.
Palmero is currently an assistant Sports editor on the softball, beach volleyball, women's volleyball, men's volleyball and men's golf beats. He was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball and women's volleyball beats.
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