Women’s volleyball breaks losing streak with sweep of Arizona schools
Sophomore outside hitter/opposite Charitie Luper bumps the ball. Luper recorded a career-high 25 kills against Arizona on Saturday en route to the Bruin’s clean sweep of the desert schools. (Anya Yakimenko/Daily Bruin staff)
By Leila Bivins
Oct. 10, 2022 3:03 p.m.
This post was updated Oct. 11 at 9:28 p.m.
The Bruins have finally brought their historic losing streak to a close.
After opening the season with four straight conference losses at home, UCLA was able to end its longest losing streak since 2013 with a sweep of the desert schools.
“With the stress of losing matches, I think it’s just getting back to freeing up and just enjoying playing,” said coach Michael Sealy. “The team found a ton of joy and just appreciated playing and it showed.”
UCLA women’s volleyball (8-7, 2-4 Pac-12) swept Arizona State (8-10, 2-4) on Friday and finished its voyage with a 3-1 win against Arizona (11-6, 1-5) on Sunday.
The Bruins ended the first set against the Sun Devils with a .440 hitting percentage while limiting their opponents to eight kills and a .065 hitting percentage. Redshirt junior middle blocker Anna Dodson led the Bruins in kills, notching four with just five swings.
The ball moved swiftly around the court throughout the set, with five UCLA players gaining multiple kills. Graduate student setter Matti McKissock set both Arizona matches after sitting out because of COVID-19 in UCLA’s loss to Utah. She racked up a total of 39 assists against Arizona State in her return.
“It was really tough being out,” McKissock said. “I’m really motivated and excited to be on the court for one last season.”
The set came to an end with the help of sophomore middle blocker Francesca Alupei, who secured three of the last four points of the set with two kills and a block assist to bring the final score to 25-15.
The Bruins kept their swings strong in the second set and finished with 17 total kills, with all but one of the kills assisted by McKissock. UCLA also held its own on the defensive end with a total of 24 digs in the set, with three players getting five digs apiece.
“The passing was also really great this weekend,” McKissock said. “So it allowed me to set all of my hitters and open up scenes for the hitters.”
The Sun Devils were able to end the last set with the closest score differential but still fell short as the Bruins continued their balanced offensive performance, with six players getting kills in the final frame.
Arizona State had its best defensive performance of the night in set three, totaling 18 digs compared to six and eight in the first two sets. Nevertheless, the Sun Devils did not outperform the blue and gold, who totaled 24 digs once again.
The Bruins closed out the third set with a final score of 25-21 – officially bringing an end to their losing streak with their first conference win of this season.
In the first set against Arizona, UCLA looked to be back on its way into the loss column.
The Bruins trailed most of the first set and had a negative hitting percentage at certain parts. UCLA lost six points to service errors and ultimately fell short in the first frame, finishing with a .061 hitting percentage.
“We’ve just been very unlucky this season,” said sophomore outside hitter/opposite Charitie Luper. “We saw an opportunity and we took it, and now we know how it goes to play as a team or just play super clean.”
The blue and gold changed the trajectory of the game in the second set, recovering from its serving struggles with zero service errors.
Luper led the match in kills with 13 across two sets, with nine of them coming from the second set alone.
In the following set, the Bruins dominated with a 17-1 run before closing with the largest set-point differential of the match, a 25-12 decision.
UCLA took home the win with a fourth-set victory in which the team limited Arizona to 16 points. Again, the Bruins used a balanced offensive approach, with seven players each getting kills. Luper led the team with 25 kills of her own, a match high and a career record for the sophomore.
“I’m just giving all of the credit to my setter – she ran our offense today, she ran our offense on Friday, so all credits go to her,” Luper said. “We could not have done it without her.”
McKissock finished the Arizona match with a total of 43 assists, and according to Luper, played a key role in her career-high performance.
“We’re excited to be back at home and give our fans something to look forward to, and we’re just extremely focused, and we know what we’re capable of a lot more than what we’ve been showing,” McKissock said. “We’re just motivated and excited to keep this winning streak going.”
UCLA will continue conference play with its return to Pauley Pavilion to face Oregon State on Friday.