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UCLA women’s volleyball splits matches at season-opening Utah State Invitational

Graduate student outside hitter/opposite élan McCall hits a serve. The Bruins split matches at the Utah State Invitational, with McCall totaling a team-high 23 hits over the two days. (Anya Yakimenko/Daily Bruin)

Women's Volleyball

No. 12 UCLA1
Utah State3
No. 12 UCLA3
Cal Poly0

By Amy Ionescu

Aug. 28, 2022 4:04 p.m.

With one hit, sophomore defensive specialist/libero Peyton Dueck secured the win over her former team.

No. 12 UCLA women’s volleyball (1-1) split matches at the Utah State Invitational on Friday and Saturday, falling 3-1 against the host team in Utah State (2-0) before managing a 3-0 victory over in-state rival Cal Poly (0-2). Dueck – who transferred to the blue and gold after one season with the Mustangs – served a team-high 15 service attempts, including two aces, against her former school.

In addition to being the Bruins’ first match of the season, the showdown against the Aggies marked a number of other firsts. Most notably, it was the first time since 2018 that the Bruins had managed 20.0 total team blocks, the first time in program history that UCLA lost a season-opening match to an unranked opponent and the first time six players donned the blue and gold.

“We just need more experience,” said coach Michael Sealy. “We just got cut short so much in the preseason and didn’t get an opportunity to play a whole lot, and we just need time in the saddle. We just need to keep playing with each other and figuring out how to play with each other.”

The first three sets against the Aggies proved to be a back-and-forth affair, with neither team managing more than a three-point lead over the other. In the fourth set, however, the Bruins fell to a five-point deficit that they were unable to make up, dropping the deciding match by six.

Redshirt freshman defensive specialist/libero Katie McCarthy made her collegiate debut by leading the Bruins in digs with 11. Furthermore, Dueck served a team-high three aces in her UCLA debut, while graduate transfer defensive specialist/libero MacKenzie Cole picked up six digs of her own.

“Every time we touch the ball, it should be a more quality of a touch, and that was better today (Saturday),” Sealy said. “And the other component is systems, and we just need more time playing together to keep fine-tuning those.”

In the second of its two matches, the blue and gold managed to emerge victorious with a clean sweep against Cal Poly. Graduate transfer setter Matti McKissock led the team in both assists and digs – with 32 and nine, respectively – and freshman outside hitter/opposite Grayce Olson notched her first career double-digit kill count with 10.

“Today, we came in with a clear mindset,” McKissok said. “We knew we wanted to serve tough, which we did that, and really put them out of systems, so our serving was really great, and we found rhythm in our offense.”

While McKissock set up the attack, graduate student outside hitter/opposite élan McCall led the Bruins offensively with 14 total kills, alongside an ace in the first set that increased the lead to 7-4. UCLA would not fall behind for the rest of the set, pulling away with the largest margin of victory for a set in the tournament.

The second set saw McCall hit six out of 17 total team kills, good for a .750 clip and no errors. After pulling away on a four-point run after the teams were knotted at 3-3, the Bruins never saw themselves slip below the Mustangs again.

“I was just trying to be more crafty and opening up my brain,” McCall said. “I limited myself yesterday (Friday) versus today (Saturday). I felt more open to swing high hands or chisel low off the block or high off the block. I also just tried to stay with the team and keep the eye contact together and everything because that’s what we talked about.”

In the third and final set, the blue and gold once again never let the Mustangs take a lead. Dueck secured the win for the Bruins against her former school with an ace to finish off the match.

With their first tournament under their belt, the Bruins have a stretch of three more road tournaments before they head into their home opener in late September.

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Amy Ionescu | Assistant Sports editor
Ionescu is currently an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, swim and dive and rowing beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
Ionescu is currently an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, swim and dive and rowing beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
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