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UCLA women’s volleyball continues to rotate roster ahead of Oklahoma trip

Graduate student middle blocker Desiree Becker shares a high five with freshman setter Ashley Mullen. Preparing to see Oklahoma twice later this week, the squad is nearing its final two contests of nonconference play with Pac-12 competition on the horizon. The Bruins will face the Sooners on Friday and Sunday. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

Women's Volleyball

Friday, 3 p.m.

McCasland Field House
Saturday, 12 p.m.

McCasland Field House

By Rahaf Abumansour

Sept. 13, 2023 4:38 p.m.

The Bruins’ depth-filled roster has been their anchor heading into their final nonconference games of the season.

UCLA women’s volleyball (7-1) will cap off its season-opening three-week road trip with back-to-back contests against Oklahoma (5-2) in the McCasland Field House on Friday and Saturday. The Sooners will be the Bruins’ final nonconference foe of the season before they kick off Pac-12 competition next week.

The recent weeks have seen the Bruin roster gelling, as the squad has started to find its rhythm heading into the last two games before Pac-12 play, senior outside/opposite hitter Iman Ndiaye said.

“I think we are getting into a groove with our team as we are getting closer at the end of preseason,” Ndiaye said.

So far, UCLA’s season opener against LSU has been its only loss of the season. Aside from this sole defeat, the Bruins have clinched all their 2023 contests, rattling off seven straight wins through the Tiger Classic, the Long Beach State Tournament and, most recently, the Outrigger Volleyball Challenge.

In addition to former coach Michael Sealy’s holdovers from last season – namely Ndiaye and redshirt senior middle blocker Anna Dodson – first-year coach Alfee Reft brought in three transfers and four freshmen, with more than half of the new Bruin players seeing regular playing time.

Graduate student middle blocker Desiree Becker tops the Pac-12 blocking charts, as the Northwestern transfer has mustered 29 just eight games into the season. Dodson is tied for fifth with 31 blocks of her own alongside a .430 hitting percentage this season – leading all Bruins by a margin of .128 between her and the second-best. With 69 kills and 20 blocks on the season Ndiaye ranks top 10 in the Pac-12.

The Oklahoma matchup marks not only UCLA’s last game before the conference slate starts but also its last on the road for a while, as it enters a four-game home stand at Pauley Pavilion. But while a battle with their crosstown rival USC awaits, the Bruins are only focused on the Sooners in the programs’ first-ever matchup, sophomore outside/opposite hitter Grayce Olson said.

“We are just going to focus on Oklahoma,” Olson said.

Although just two games await before the spotlight pivots to Pac-12 action, Reft is still alternating players as he rotates among his Bruin roster.

Freshman Ashley Mullen and senior Audrey Pak have alternated at the setter position and have both proven themselves in the position, with Mullen capturing 204 assists in the past eight games and Pak totaling 134 assists in the past seven games.

At the libero locus, however, junior Peyton Dueck – who recorded a team-high 49 digs and averaged 3.77 digs per set in UCLA’s last three matches – seized control of the starting libero position.

Regardless of the opponent, Olson said that the Bruins are optimistic of the remainder of their season and are in high spirits about their 2023 prospects.

“We are extremely confident, and we know how good we can be,” Olson said.

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Rahaf Abumansour
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