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UCLA women’s volleyball to face Long Beach, Big Ten member Indiana

Peyton Dueck clenches her fist in celebration. Despite initially being a backup, the junior has embraced the role as UCLA’s starting libero and has mustered 49 digs in the first three games of the season. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

Women's Volleyball


Indiana
Friday, 4 p.m.

The Walter Pyramid
ESPN+
Long Beach State
Saturday, 7 p.m.

The Walter Pyramid
ESPN+

By Rahaf Abumansour

Aug. 31, 2023 12:35 p.m.

The Bruins are preparing to face old and new faces as they head back to the West Coast.

UCLA women’s volleyball (2-1) will take on Indiana (3-0) on Friday and Long Beach State (1-1) on Saturday in the Long Beach State Tournament taking place just south of Westwood. Marking their second week on the road from what will be a three-week journey, the Bruins look to add two more wins this upcoming week after a five-set victory over LSU and sweep of Northwestern State.

Graduate student middle blocker Desiree Becker said there is a stark difference in energy and comfort levels playing on the road versus at the Bruin arena, Pauley Pavilion.

“Definitely, playing at away games is a different level of energy,” Becker said. “Playing at Pauley feels more at home and more comfortable.”

UCLA and Indiana are meeting for the first time ever at this tournament, which will also mark UCLA’s first matchup against a Big Ten squad this season – a prelude to its entry into the Big Ten conference next year. Against Big Ten programs, UCLA has an overall record of 50–27 (.649) and boasts winning records against 10 of 12 opponents in the conference. Its 12-0 record over Illinois and 9-1 record against Ohio State are two of its most notable series advantages.

Although the Bruins will compete against the Hoosiers for the first time, they see the Beach just two years after the squads’ last matchup. The latter fell to UCLA 3-0 in the same tournament in the 2021 season and holds a 64-19 losing record across all meetings. With their last loss against the Beach dating back to 2009, the Bruins have an opportunity to extend their 10-match winning streak against their rival Saturday.

Senior opposite/outside hitter Iman Ndiaye said understanding the opponent and devising a strategic game plan can lead the team toward victory.

“I think preparing for each team and expecting how each team is going to be different really helps us get those wins,” Ndiaye said.

Ndiaye was part of the Bruin squad that beat Long Beach State a couple of seasons ago alongside redshirt senior middle blocker Anna Dodson. The hitters notched six kills each to propel their squad to victory.

With new head coach Alfee Reft at the helm of the program, this year’s roster boasts seven new student-athletes who complement the return of key figures. Seasoned veterans such as Dodson, Ndiaye, junior libero Peyton Dueck and senior setter Audrey Pak are continuing their collegiate volleyball legacies this season, marking the final chapter for most of them. Meanwhile, fresh faces such as freshman setter Ashley Mullen and new transfers join the squad.

Reft has been experimenting with his opening lineup in the season’s early stages, particularly in the libero and setter positions. Despite being the backup libero for sophomore Mokihana Tufono, Dueck has taken the reigns of the starting libero role in all three season-opening games. Throughout her stint, she has secured a total of 49 digs. Tufono made the switch from setter this season but has totaled two digs so far.

The setter position has also seen some duality, with Pak and Mullen alternating. Pak has totaled 69 assists, including a career-high 34 in the LSU win, while Mullen has mustered 57 in her first three games with the program.

For now, the Bruins are all about getting adequate rest time between matches, said assistant head coach Jen Malcom.

“I think the biggest thing is right now is recovery,” Malcom said. “We have a lot of games, and we must ensure that we are recovering well to get a good shot at winning the remaining games.”

The Bruins will face off against the Hoosiers on Friday at 4 p.m.

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