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UCLA women’s volleyball falls to No. 2 Stanford in 5-set battle

Senior setter Audrey Pak sets the ball to her teammate. Pak reached the 1,000 assist landmark on Friday night. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)

Women's Volleyball

No. 2 Stanford3

By Rahaf Abumansour

Nov. 19, 2023 10:36 p.m.

The Bruins fell short of conquering the nation’s second-best team.

UCLA women’s volleyball (16-11, 8-9 Pac-12) hosted No. 2 Stanford (23-3, 16-1) on Friday night at Pauley Pavilion. Despite taking their Bay Area foes to five sets, the Bruins ultimately conceded a 3-2 loss.

Coach Alfee Reft said the squad’s offensive exhibition was just under par.

“I thought we played great volleyball for spurts,” Reft said. “We always fight, and we fell short on execution.”

The first set was a tug-of-war battle between the Bruins and Cardinal, as both teams stayed within a whisker of the other. The points racked up until the Bruins went up 21-20, gaining a lead they wouldn’t go of till they clinched the opening frame.

With match point on the line, cheers echoed from the stands of Pauley Pavilion as senior outside/opposite hitter Iman Ndiaye put a long rally to a halt with a kill to secure her squad’s winning tally.

The Cardinal turned things around in the ensuing set and kept the Bruins at bay, ending the set with a 14-point margin at 25-11.

During the third set, redshirt senior middle blocker Anna Dodson delivered the Bruins’ 19th point, but the hosts’ 5-1 run ran short as the Cardinal regained momentum to take set three 25-23.

After an oscillating fourth frame, UCLA managed to dull the Cardinal in overtime.

“We’ve been down before in matches, and we knew that if we lost that fourth set, it would be over,” said sophomore outside/opposite hitter Grayce Olson. “I think all of us just kind of understood how important it was for us to come back.”

Dodson and graduate student middle blocker Desiree Becker went on to tally five and six blocks on the night, respectively. Three Bruins would also accomplish double-digit kills throughout the match, with Ndiaye notching 16, followed by sophomore outside hitter Cheridyn Leverette and Olson, who mustered 12 apiece.

Senior setter Audrey Pak added another achievement to her journey donning the blue and gold as she reached the 1,000 assists milestone.

Pak said she couldn’t have reached this milestone without the support of her team and coaches.

“I love our team,” Pak said. “It makes such a big difference having coaches who believe in you and just give you a pathway to excel.”

The Bruins have taken their opponents to a fifth set seven times this season, and this time was no different.

But this time around, Stanford’s 9-0 start diminished any chance UCLA had – as it ultimately failed to overcome an eight-point deficit and surrendered a 15-7 loss.

After the fifth set teetered in favor of the visitors, Pak said weak mindsets were the team’s Achilles’ heel through the frame.

“There was a lot of plays where we kind of fell down and put our heads down,” Pak said. “We knew that we just had to believe in ourselves and just keep going.”

The Bruins are back in action this Sunday as they take on the Golden Bears at noon.

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Rahaf Abumansour
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