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UCLA women’s volleyball opens season with losses to USC, Washington

Junior outside hitter/opposite Iman Ndiaye
goes up for a kill. Ndiaye hit 15 kills this match, including the first set-winning kill. (Joseph Jimenez/Assistant Photo editor)

Women's Volleyball

No. 18 Washington3

By Amelie Ionescu

Sept. 26, 2022 3:58 p.m.

This post was updated Sept. 27 at 8:30 p.m.

A month into the season, the Bruins have already lost as many regular-season matches as they did all of last year.

UCLA women’s volleyball (6-5, 0-2 Pac-12) fell to No. 18 Washington (10-2, 2-0) Sunday in four sets, dropping three frames in a row after clinching the first 25-21.

The Bruins’ lone winning set featured their best hitting percentage all season, coming in at a .625 clip in comparison to the Huskies’ .448.

“We came out being more confident in ourselves,” said graduate outside hitter/opposite élan McCall. “And it’s really just a work in progress.”

The set featured five kills apiece from sophomore outside hitter/opposite Charitie Luper and junior outside hitter/opposite Iman Ndiaye, alongside four from graduate student middle blocker Lauren Forte, who had a perfect hitting percentage that set.

Despite several attempts to tie it up, Washington was unable to get the edge in the first set, ultimately falling to a kill from Ndiaye.

“I was just looking to score,” Ndiaye said. “After playing USC, we realized we need people to just step up and go for it – get some points for the team.”

In a mirror to the first set, the Bruins trailed the Huskies by a margin of one or two points for most of the following frame, and a series of three service errors left the blue and gold unable to make up the deficit, dropping the frame 25-21.

According to coach Michael Sealy, the Huskies capitalized on the Bruins’ weak points in the game.

“We took care of the ball in set one and a lot of set two,” Sealy said. “Set two is a perfect example of why Washington’s good. You can play good also, and then you don’t play good for 30 seconds, and then you’re behind four points and they’re steady enough where it’s hard to earn those points back.”

The third set saw the biggest deficit either team faced, with the Bruins trailing by seven points halfway through, a difference they were unable to make up.

Sealy said Washington’s consistency was difficult for UCLA to match.

“Washington is one of the most consistent teams of the country,” Sealy said. “They just play good, steady volleyball. It’s not a whole lot of wow, it’s just consistent for two hours. And it forces you to be patient and good for two hours, which is difficult.”

Service errors came back to haunt the Bruins once again, as they gave up the set to the Huskies 25-17.

The set also featured the Bruins’ lowest hitting percentage of the game at .179 with the blue and gold tallying six errors and 13 kills on 39 attempts.

“We ran a really good offense,” Ndiaye said. “We could do better at just minimizing errors. We had a lot of errors, and that’s just not really who we are.”

UCLA took the first point of the fourth set with a block by graduate student setter Matti McKissock, but lost the lead almost immediately with another service error, its ninth of the match. The Bruins ended with 15 service errors – the most of any contest this season.

Despite the loss, the Bruins outperformed the Huskies in kills, assists and digs, with Ndiaye and Luper accumulating 15 kills apiece – a season high for Ndiaye.

McCall – who managed nine digs and 12 kills for 13 points – said it’s still early in the season, and the Bruins are striving forward.

“We just got to be patient and trust the process,” McCall said. “It’s a long season, and we’re only two games into conference (play). We got a lot more, and just getting better from there.”

UCLA is back at home Friday against Utah.

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Amelie Ionescu | Sports senior staff
Ionescu was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, swim and dive and rowing beats, and a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
Ionescu was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, swim and dive and rowing beats, and a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
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