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Anna Dodson, Audrey Pak to return to UCLA women’s volleyball for another year

Senior setter Audrey Pak (left) eyes the ball on a serve. Redshirt senior middle blocker Anna Dodson (right) soars for a kill. (Shane Yu/Daily Bruin staff)

By Rahaf Abumansour

Jan. 11, 2024 12:56 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 12 at 12:02 a.m. 

Anna Dodson handed the Bruin faithful a gift this past holiday season.

The redshirt senior middle blocker announced Tuesday via Instagram her plan to return for one more year with the Bruins, utilizing her final year of eligibility.

Dodson said the decision comes from a deeper place of emotion.

“When I decided to stay at UCLA, it was kind of a promise I made to Alfee (Reft),” Dodson said. “It was kind of a big thing for me to finish what I kind of started and been a part of since the beginning and seeing it out with all of my eligibility.”

After redshirting her freshman year, suffering a leg injury and dealing with the drawbacks brought about by COVID-19, she had one more year left that she planned to use up.

“I am really looking forward to spending one last year with all these amazing humans and be in such a great environment,” Dodson said.

In terms of numbers, the All-American honorable mention racked up 233 kills alongside a .374 hitting percentage for the 2023 season.

But the numbers aren’t the only thing making the offensive stalwart return – the team culture is, even in the face of obstacles, Dodson said.

“All the challenges seem the same to me,” Dodson said. “It is really about the interaction and relationships we have here and how that is the foundation of how we deal with the challenges.”

Dodson is not the only Bruin with fire in her veins. Senior setter Audrey Pak also announced her return Dec. 29 on Instagram. The two veteran players will join fresh faces as UCLA heads into the Big Ten later this year.

Coach Alfee Reft, who is going into his second year as UCLA’s women’s volleyball’s head coach, said he is excited to see the return of familiar faces to Pauley Pavilion.

“We are always thrilled when Bruins decide to stay Bruins,” Reft said.

Reft added that both Pak and Dodson usher in different leadership styles, something that adds depth to the team.

“Audrey is such a calm demeanor for us on the court,” Reft said. “She leads firmly, but quietly. Anna leads with a lot of heart and outward emotion.”

Prior to redshirting her 2022 season, Pak saw action in three matches in 2021, where she managed a season-high 15 assists and 11 digs.

But after starting UCLA’s final 15 matches of 2023, Pak had a breakout 2023 season as she recorded 806 assists, 20 aces and 39 kills in her senior year alone, a stark improvement from her 2021 figures.

“I think halfway through this season, things really clicked for me,” Pak said. “From there, I felt really confident and was able to play freely. I feel like I still have so much more to give, and this is only scratching the surface.”

Dodson and Pak have been with the program for five and four years, respectively, seeing it undergo many modifications – both a change in coaching staff and soon a change in conferences.

Pak said within these shifts, she and Dodson cherish their time with the team and are brimming with excitement to hit replay.

“I am so happy that Anna is coming back too,” Pak said. “I love playing with her, and I love her as a person. And I think throughout the past years, we learned a lot and experienced a lot together.”

 

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