UCLA women’s volleyball sweeps Outrigger Volleyball Challenge
Sophomore middle blocker Francesca Alupei blocks a hit. Alupei totaled 28 points over the course of the tournament. (Ariana Fadel/Daily Bruin staff)
|No. 22 UCLA||3|
|No. 22 UCLA||3|
|No. 22 UCLA||3|
By Amy Ionescu
Sept. 7, 2022 3:47 p.m.
Eleven sets after arriving in Honolulu, the Bruins pocketed a trio of wins to emerge the tournament victor.
No. 22 UCLA women’s volleyball (4-1) swept West Virginia (2-4) and Texas State (4-2) in addition to defeating Hawai’i (2-4) 3-2 over the course of four days at the 2022 Outrigger Volleyball Challenge in Honolulu, Hawaii. The tournament sweep comes after splitting matches at the Utah State Invitational.
“They were really important games for us as a team, for finding our team character,” said sophomore middle blocker Francesca Alupei. “They were really important to play our best game and be clean in our touches, in our performance.”
UCLA’s sweep over their Thursday night opponent– West Virginia – was spearheaded by a 25-13 second set. Whereas the last set saw the Bruins up 19-4 before the Mountaineers were able to close the deficit to 11 by the end of the set.
Alupei hit at a .700 clip, with seven kills of 10 total attempts against the Mountaineers.
Another Bruin took the spotlight against Texas State in defensive specialist/libero Mackenzie Cole, who hit five of the team’s 11 service aces in the game. In a mirror performance to the day before, the blue and gold beat the Bobcats 25-13 in the second set, alongside 25-22 and 25-18 victories in the first and third sets, respectively.
“Those two games we served the ball really tough, passed well and really followed the scouting report, so we made it difficult for them to score,” said coach Michael Sealy.
After a day of rest, UCLA’s final match with Hawai’i had the Bruins come back from an 11-6 deficit in the first set via five straight points, beginning with a shot by sophomore outside hitter/opposite Charitie Luper as she hit her first kill of the season.
Luper went on to register a team-high 17 kills for a .455 hitting percentage in the match.
After a late-season injury limited Luper’s playing time in 2021, she spent the first four games of this season away from matches.
“It felt great coming back,” Luper said. “This was a long time coming. I’ve been having long rehab and long recovery, and I’ve just been working super duper hard to get back on the court doing what I love.”
Hawai’i then went on to score seven of the next nine points to pull away with a 20-15 lead and ultimately take the first set 25-20.
Five kills, an ace and two blocks later, the Bruins had racked up a 10-1 lead to start the second set, a beginning that Hawai’i could not overcome. The Rainbow Warriors ultimately surrendered the set 25-13.
In order to secure the win, Alupei said the Bruins had to focus on limiting Hawai’i’s strongest attackers.
“For us it was mostly about the middles,” Alupei said. “That’s why we stuck with the middles more in the Hawai’i game, because they were the best hitters on the team.”
Set three went to the Rainbow Warriors after a 6-0 run put the host team out in front, ultimately giving them a 2-1 advantage in the match.
But the Bruins clinched set four 25-23 – after being down 20-13 – to force a fifth set.
“Every time we were down, we kept great chemistry, we kept great eye contact with each other,” Luper said. “We kept telling each other that the game’s not over, we still need to keep fighting, keep our chin up.”
After tying up the match at two sets apiece, the Bruins managed to snag the last set 15-9, marking an undefeated tournament for the blue and gold.
“Our goal when we were down 20-13 was just to try to get to 20 points,” Sealy said. “Let’s try to outscore them for the rest of the match, put something in our control. And then once we got to 20, crazy things can happen once both teams get to 20.”
The Bruins will continue tournament play against Loyola Marymount and San Jose State on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
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