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UCLA women’s volleyball kicks off season with three-week road trip

The UCLA women’s volleyball squad gathers for a team huddle. The team begins its 2023 campaign and first year of the Alfee Reft era this Friday against LSU at the Tiger Classic event. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

Women's Volleyball

August 25, 4:30 p.m.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana
No TV info
August 26, 3 p.m.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana
No TV info
Northwestern State
August 28, 10:30 a.m.

Natchitoches, Louisiana
No TV info

By Nicole Augusta

Aug. 25, 2023 2:10 p.m.

The Bruins are commencing their season with a three-week road trip for the third consecutive year.

Competing in this year’s Tiger Classic, UCLA women’s volleyball will meet LSU for the first time in over a decade Friday and Saturday, followed by a Northwestern State matchup Monday morning – the first in program history. The trip to Louisiana precedes visits to Long Beach, Hawaii and Oklahoma.

With the Bruins seeing key departures after last season – including their former head coach – UCLA appears to be an entirely different team this season.

Senior outside/opposite hitter Iman Ndiaye said the earlier start to summer training has aided in this transition.

“The beginning of the summer training and preseason training has just been intense just because there’s only so many sessions, so we have to be really efficient with our time,” Ndiaye said. “We’ve been doing a good job at moving through things and putting pieces together, so I think we’re ready and excited to play these teams.”

Senior outside hitter/opposite Iman Ndiaye elevates for a kill. The Bruins’ top returning attacker ranked second best in kills last year with 269, and managed 14 contests of double-digit kills. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

When it comes down to the numbers, the Tigers and Demons both exceed the Bruins in kills, posting totals of 1,506 and 1,488 for the 2022 season, respectively, as compared to the Bruins’ 1,470. Individually, while UCLA’s outside/opposite hitter élan McCall notched 312 kills, Northwestern State’s outside hitter Breanna Burrell garnered 338 – not to mention LSU’s outside hitter Sanaa Dotson, who recorded 436 last year.

While McCall has completed her stint with the Bruins, both Burrell and Dotson remain active members of their respective teams and are expected to meet the Bruins on the court this weekend.

To eliminate the comparison factor in this time of adjustment, coach Alfee Reft said he urges his players to stay grounded and strive for their highest potential.

“Really, we talk about the best version of ourselves on the daily and being completely immersed in that concept,” Reft said. “So not looking too far ahead, just kind of where our feet are.”

Northwestern State dominated the defensive numbers, as it led both LSU and UCLA in digs in the 2022 season. But in terms of individual digs, out of each school’s category leader, only Northwestern State’s libero Ashlyn Svodoba will be making a return to the court.

Qualifying performance beyond the numbers, Reft said he is proud of the team’s current progress and is confident in their ability to improve.

“We’re seeing the fruits of their labors really coming through right now,” Reft said. “Of course there are things to get better at – and we will – but I like where we’re at today.”

Ultimately, UCLA ushers more playoff experience than either of the teams it will face this weekend. It may be short of some big names such as McCall and setter Matti McKissock, but redshirt senior middle blocker Anna Dodson – the only Bruin to earn All-Pac-12 honors in 2022 – said she is confident in the team’s ability to make a strong appearance.

“I think those two are both great teams, and I think so far we’re off to a great start,” Dodson said. “It’s been a great learning process, and we continue to learn each day. But so far, I think we’re ready to fight, ready to go.”

UCLA will face off at 4:30 p.m. against LSU on Friday in the Maravich Center.

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Nicole Augusta
Augusta is a 2024-2025 co-Copy chief and a Sports senior staff writer. She was previously a 2023-2024 slot editor. Augusta is a rising fourth-year human biology and society student.
Augusta is a 2024-2025 co-Copy chief and a Sports senior staff writer. She was previously a 2023-2024 slot editor. Augusta is a rising fourth-year human biology and society student.
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