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UCLA women’s volleyball splits first games of season in Tiger Classic matchup

Senior Iman Ndiaye elevates. The outside/opposite hitter notched 20 and nine kills, respectively, in UCLA’s opening contests against LSU on Friday and Saturday. The Bruins came away with one loss and one victory in the Tiger Classic series. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

Women's Volleyball


By Rahaf Abumansour

Aug. 28, 2023 1:05 p.m.

The Bruins were served one loss and one win in their first matchup against the Tigers in fifteen years.

UCLA women’s volleyball (1-1) opened its season at the Tiger Classic against LSU (1-1). After a 3-2 defeat in Friday’s opening match, the Bruins handed their opponents a 3-2 loss back Saturday in Louisiana’s Maravich Center.

Entering the third frame Friday on the heels of two consecutive set losses, the Bruins battled back in the final two sets to combine for 28 kills on a .388 hitting percentage. Senior outside/opposite hitter Iman Ndiaye notched a team high of 20 kills, while freshman setter Ashley Mullen dished out 43 assists. Junior defensive specialist/libero Peyton Dueck shut down 18 digs in her first start as UCLA’s libero.

Coach Alfee Reft – who saw his first games at the helm of the program over the weekend – said the set of opening games featured a blend of season veterans and fresh faces.

“We have a full team that can contribute,” Reft said. “So we saw a lot of faces on the court through the course of the two nights, and they all played very well.”

It was the freshman who helped ignite the 6-1 rally that would eventually lead to the Bruins’ first set win of the season in the third frame. Mullen’s two assists – complemented by two Ndiaye kills – sparked the Bruins’ momentum.

An oscillating fifth set saw LSU hold a narrow 8-7 advantage. However, in the final nine points of Friday’s game, LSU went on a 7-3 run to prevent UCLA from completing the reverse sweep.

Friday’s game became a chance for the Bruins to learn how to adapt in the face of a loss. Sophomore outside/opposite hitter Grayce Olson said the lessons learned helped the team find a win Saturday.

“We were able to see different selections the other team made and adjust our defense based on that, which gave us the win,” Olson said.

The Bruins met the Tigers for the second time Saturday, where the tables turned and the Bruins won 3-2.

“After we lost last (Friday) night, there were so many key components that we could be better at, which is normal for a first game,” Reft said. “We spent much time in film and were much cleaner tonight (Saturday).”

The Bruins fell early in the first frame with a 25-12 loss, but they evened the contest with a 25-22 win in the second set.

The Tigers got off to a quick 5-0 start in the third set. A kill by sophomore Cheridyn Leverette gave the Bruins their first point, but it wasn’t enough – the Tigers never trailed and clinched the frame 25-20.

That was the last rise of the Tigers, as the Bruins won the final two sets 25-22 and 15-6 to emerge victorious in game two.

Leverette’s 17 kills led all Bruins on Saturday, and she accompanied that figure with a .351 hitting percentage. It was a final kill by Olson in set five that clinched the contest for the Bruins.

Since the Bruins are at the early stages of their season, Reft said the players will maintain a steady approach for what is to come.

“I don’t think the focus changes,” Reft said. “We just have to keep finding ways to improve what we are doing. We are getting better week by week.”

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Rahaf Abumansour
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