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Women’s volleyball reviews past matchups ahead of Outrigger Volleyball Challenge

Associate head coach Jen Malcom devises a play during UCLA’s matchup against Indiana. Malcom credited head coach Alfee Reft and assistant coach Amir Lugo-Rodriguez for their work in improving the team’s blocking performance. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)


Thursday, 7:45 p.m.

Stan Sheriff Center
No TV info
Friday, 7:45 p.m.

Stan Sheriff Center
No TV info
Sunday, 8 p.m.

Stan Sheriff Center
No TV info

By Rahaf Abumansour

Sept. 5, 2023 12:27 p.m.

The Bruins’ third consecutive road tournament will be marked by the inclusion of new staff and the right mentality.

“I’d say my mentality as a player is, ‘What could I do as my job to make other people’s jobs easier?’” said sophomore outside hitter Carly Hendrickson. “The better block I set up, the easier defense gets.”

UCLA women’s volleyball (4-1) prepares to land in Honolulu for the Outrigger Volleyball Challenge for the second time in as many years. The squad will face the familiar faces of Hawai’i (4-1) and Pepperdine (1-4) while stepping foot in unexplored courts against Liberty (6-0).

The Bruins had an undefeated run the last time they participated in the tournament, dropping only two sets en route to conquering Texas State, West Virginia and Hawai’i, and they have a chance to repeat history this weekend.

The last showdown between UCLA and Pepperdine occurred in 2016, with UCLA securing a 3-1 win. In the same contest, the Bruins outnumbered the Waves in nearly every statistical category, limiting them to a .076 hitting percentage. UCLA showed out offensively, as five Bruins mustered double-digit kills compared to none from Pepperdine doing the same.

The hiring of new assistant coach Amir Lugo-Rodriguez, whose impact on the team’s performance has been noticeable since the start of the season, is the decision of new head coach Alfee Reft, who ushered in an entirely new coaching staff after he was selected at the helm. Lugo-Rodriguez, a former starting middle blocker for Team USA at the 2017 World University Games, has quickly transferred his abilities to his leadership of the Bruins, according to associate head coach Jen Malcom.

“Coach Amir and Alfee have done a great job in terms of blocking. I’m excited to see where it goes,” Malcom said.

In the recent Long Beach State Tournament, the Bruins notched 19 blocks against Long Beach State, resulting in one of their highest tallies in the last seven seasons. The middle-blocking pair of redshirt senior Anna Dodson and graduate student Desiree Becker racked up seven and nine blocks, respectively, protecting the Bruin net to manage the win.

Dodson said Lugo-Rodriguez’s addition played a role in the success of their blocking style.

“Amir completely changed our blocking, … at least, from ourselves and our side of the net and strived to make us better every day,” Dodson said.

The addition of new staff has also assisted UCLA in understanding its opponents. Both Malcom and Hendrickson said the staff has been able to scout out the other side of the net to help their players exploit weaknesses.

The last time UCLA and Hawai’i met, UCLA saw a slim 3-2 victory, with its top-scoring players élan McCall and Charitie Luper contributing 15-plus kills apiece.

However, Dodson and senior outside/opposite hitter Iman Ndiaye were also among the top scorers in that match, contributing 10 and eight kills, respectively.

Hendrickson said the Bruins plan to use past lessons learned from those games in the weekend ahead.

“We had seen that we tend to start a little slow,” Hendrickson said. “It was nice to come out strong and hit them first. Keeping that mentality up when we go to Hawaii will be really tough.”

The action begins Thursday when the Bruins face off against the Waves at 7:45 p.m. in Stan Sheriff Center.

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Rahaf Abumansour
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