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Weekend in Preview: Nov. 10

Graduate student middle blocker Desiree Becker locks eyes on the ball to strike a kill. Becker notched a career-high .833 hitting percentage last weekend. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Noah Massey and Una O'Farrell

Nov. 10, 2023 3:19 p.m.

Women’s volleyball
Una O’Farrell, Daily Bruin contributor

Two cities, two showdowns and an opportunity for redemption are on the table for the Bruins.

UCLA women’s volleyball (14-10, 6-8 Pac-12) will head to the Pacific Northwest to face No. 9 Washington State (19-6, 9-5) and Washington (14-11, 5-9) on Friday and Sunday, respectively. After suffering a 3-1 loss to the Cougars earlier this season, the Bruins will rematch the top-10 opponent on the road this weekend.

On the heels of a successful sweep of Arizona on Sunday, coach Alfee Reft said UCLA strives to maintain the serving efficiency it has developed throughout the season.

“Our serving has been a staple for us all year,” Reft said. “And we keep indexing on it.”

Washington State finished with 10 service aces in its previous win against UCLA, but the squad has struggled to retain these figures during its last two road matches versus Stanford and California, with three and four per game, respectively.

Graduate student middle blocker Desiree Becker said her team is focusing on improvements on all ends of the floor.

“Today (Sunday), we did great at serving,” Becker said. “For next week, we can keep that, and then add improvements in blocking and defense.”

In its sweep of Washington earlier this season, UCLA faltered in the block and defense. The squad tied its season-low figure of four blocks as defensive specialist/libero Peyton Dueck racked up just seven digs – just over half of what the junior usually produces.

As the Bruins prepare to travel to Washington for a rematch against both the Cougars and the Huskies, Reft said his team’s perseverance will be imperative to overcome adversity.

“I think the overriding feeling for me – and I’ve known this all season – but this team keeps showing us that they’re just resilient,” Reft said. “We come back, and more than anything, I’m just proud of this group of young women.”

(Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)
UCLA women's cross country members make their way through the Pac-12 championship race. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

Cross country
Noah Massey, Daily Bruin contributor

The Bruins will have the chance to end on a high note.

UCLA cross country will compete in the NCAA West Regional on Friday, hosted by Sacramento State, with the opportunity to qualify for next Saturday’s NCAA championships. The men’s and women’s teams have been unable to qualify for the championships since 2017 and 2016, respectively, though several of the athletes have qualified individually since then.

Junior Mateo Bianchi, the top men’s finisher at the Pac-12 championships two weeks ago, said the meet would be the largest challenge for the Bruins thus far.

“It’s definitely going to be our biggest competition of the season, by far,” Bianchi said. “The level of competition, there’s just going to be higher than what we faced throughout the season.”

Following eighth and seventh place finishes at the Pac-12 championships, the men’s and women’s teams enter this weekend hoping to end their season on a high note in a West region that features three men’s and five women’s top-25 teams in each division.

UCLA will face an uphill battle to qualify for the season’s final meet, as they would need to either finish as one of the top two teams or be selected as one of the 13 at-large teams that fill out the remainder of the field.

“Looking to just put our best foot forward as a team and put a performance out there that we can be proud of, regardless of how we place,” Bianchi added.

If the Bruins do not qualify, this meet will be their final one of the season, though running will resume with the upcoming track season.

“I’m really excited for the team to see what we can do at (the) regional meet,” Bianchi said. “To set us up for next year, and to have a good track season.”

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