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UCLA women’s volleyball seeks NCAA tournament eligibility with Oregon road trip

Freshman setter Mokihana Tufono readies the ball. Tufono and UCLA women’s volleyball are preparing for rematches against Oregon and Oregon State on the road. (Anya Yakimenko/Daily Bruin staff)

Women's Volleyball


Oregon
Friday, 7 p.m.

Eugene
Pac-12 Oregon
Oregon State
Sunday, 12 p.m.

Corvallis
Pac-12 Oregon

By Sophia Vasquez

Nov. 18, 2022 3:41 p.m.

With their four-game winning streak snapped during their final home match of the year, the Bruins need to win at least one of their last four away games to potentially earn a playoff berth.

UCLA women’s volleyball (14-11, 8-8 Pac-12) is heading on the road to compete against Oregon (19-5, 13-3) on Friday and Oregon State (7-19, 2-14) on Sunday. The Bruins are one game short of meeting eligibility for an at-large bid to compete in the NCAA tournament.

In October, UCLA swept Oregon State before dropping its next contest versus Oregon in five sets. The Bruins finished the game against the Ducks with a .269 hitting percentage, accumulating a total of 63 kills. While UCLA performed better than its season average of .224, its opponents wrapped up the night with a .309 hitting percentage for a total of 73 kills.

Coach Michael Sealy said Oregon will pose some challenges for his team this week.

“Their offense is really good,” Sealy said. “So our block and defenses have to be coordinated together to be comfortable in some one-on-one hitter versus block situations.”

Redshirt junior middle blocker Anna Dodson entered the 2022 season with seven total double-digit kill games over the past two seasons, but this year, Dodson has achieved double-digit kills in seven consecutive matches, totaling 11 over the course of the season. Recently, she reached a career-high 15 kills against Arizona, becoming the most efficient attacker for the blue and gold this season with a .345 hitting percentage.

Graduate student outside hitter/opposite élan McCall led the team with 14 kills during its last match against Oregon State, totaling 15 points that night. With only four games left to play in the regular season, McCall has recorded 223 digs so far and leads the team with 256 kills.

“This has been one of the most fun years for me, and to be honest, I don’t really feel any pressure about winning or losing a game,” McCall said. “I just want to give my best every game and be there for my teammates in any way I can.”

Ultimately, these upcoming games in Oregon will require a collective effort for the Bruins to earn a pair of wins, according to Sealy.

“This is not a situation where we have one marquee player and we’re riding their coattails,” Sealy said. “We definitely have to rely on each other to play well-rounded volleyball.”

UCLA is stepping into its 11th week of the season as an unranked team. Entering this season, UCLA was coming off its highest conference finish since 2016.

But earning a spot in the playoffs is not impossible for UCLA, which currently ranks 7th in the Pac-12 standings. After being shut out by Stanford, the team plans to take everything one day at a time and capitalize on its next two games in Oregon.

“We are just focusing on improving during each practice and each game,” McCall said. “I believe in every single one of my teammates, and we are embracing the grind together.”

If they add another win to their record, the Bruins will reach a .500 winning percentage – the first criteria to even be considered for an at-large bid.

“I think this week is a huge deal for us. We’re not backing down, and we’re going to try our best to punch our ticket into the tournament,” said freshman setter Mokihana Tufono. “We’re focused with our head down, and we’re going to win these next two games.”

UCLA will begin the weekend slate against Oregon on Friday at 7 p.m. in Matthew Knight Arena.

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