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Bruins reach new heights at women’s volleyball national team training program

Sophomore outside hitter Cheridyn Leverette (left) elevates and eyes the ball to serve. Graduate student middle blocker Desiree Becker (right) spikes the ball over her head. (Shane Yu/Daily Bruin staff)

By Rahaf Abumansour

March 1, 2024 3:46 p.m.

The Bruins have ventured beyond Pauley Pavilion in the offseason.

Sophomore outside hitter Cheridyn Leverette and graduate student middle blocker Desiree Becker of UCLA women’s volleyball were selected among 200 players to participate in the Women’s National Team Open Program this past weekend in Colorado Springs. The program recruits for both the Women’s National Team and the Women’s Collegiate National Team.

In addition to the two Bruins, Alfee Reft, UCLA head coach and senior women’s national team assistant coach, was part of the crew of coaches serving this past weekend.

“It is always a special occasion when we can have some of our Bruins wear USA across their chests,” Reft said. “Those two represented UCLA and the Bruins very well.”

The WNTOP and WCNT allow top-tier athletes to potentially secure a berth in the women’s national team. The national team’s next tournament, the FIVB Volleyball Nations League, will kick off on May 15 against Thailand in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Both of them (Leverette and Becker) remained in the top group the entire weekend, which is no easy feat with all the tremendous players in that program,” Reft said.

Leverette and Becker both made their mark in Westwood last season.

Leverette ranked third in the team with 288 kills and led with 25 aces. Meanwhile, Becker – who appeared in each set of the year – spearheaded the Bruins with 136 blocks and slated in second with 1.15 blocks per set. In her sole season donning the blue and gold, the veteran ultimately ranked fifth in the Pac-12 for total blocks.

The pair of Bruins have different plans for next year – Becker will continue to play volleyball overseas, while Leverette will remain in Westwood. Regardless, Becker said she enjoyed having her teammate – and their head honcho – for what can be an intimidating experience.

“Having Alfee there was very cool, I get to spend more time being coached and being around him,” Becker said. “Spending time with Cheridyn is always great so I definitely felt the Bruin camaraderie there as well.”

Leverette added that together, she and Becker made the Bruins proud.

“She’s one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever played with,” Leverette said. “Just super athletic and such a great person to connect with on the court. I feel like us together was like the most perfect duo to go represent UCLA.”

The experience allowed the Bruins to compete alongside 200 elite athletes, some of whom Leverette and Becker have played against this past season and others they will meet after their move to the Big Ten next season.

Becker said competing at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center – the facility Team USA practices in – requires both mental and physical toughness.

“The takeaway is realizing how to push through that physical altitude,” Becker said. “It was very much a test of mental fortitude.”

Reft said the program will be hugely beneficial to Leverette and UCLA prior to their move to the Big Ten.

“I think Cheridyn took a lot from this weekend and knowing that she can battle and has earned the right to feel like one of the better outsides of the country,” Reft said. “She will help us elevate the level of play in our gym.”

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