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UCLA Women's Volleyball: Still in the Hunt for the Pac-12 Title

With a half dozen games left in the regular season, the Bruins are within striking distance of first place as they host the Oregon Ducks tonight.


UCLA Women's Volleyball

Opponent: Oregon (12-12, 6-9)

When: 8:00 PM PST, Thursday, November 12, 2015

Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA

AudioBruin Live Audio

Video: Pac-12 Networks

Live StatsUCLA StatBroadcast

Official Match Preview | Match Notes

The #9 Bruins got back to winning ways last week, picking up a pair of victories against Colorado (3-0) and Utah (3-1). Although neither Colorado or Utah have winning records in the Pac-12, I was impressed by the Bruins' performances.

UCLA was without setter Ryann Chandler and outside attacker Reily Buechler for both matches, yet Coach Sealy was able to restructure his formation, plug in bench players, and keep the Bruins within striking distance of first place. Coach Sealy, his players and staff deserve great credit for their hard work and mental toughness in overcoming injuries to key players.

With Chandler and Buechler day-to-day with injuries, the Bruins may well have to rely on their new formation tonight against the Ducks. Before her injury, Reily Buechler was used as a primary passer in the UCLA's three-person passer system. Without her, the Bruins are using a two-passer system that puts added responsibility on the Bruins' defensive specialists Rachel Inouye and Karly Drolson, as well as libero Taylor Formico. So far, so good.

Freshman Zana Muno has done a fantastic job while filling in for the injured Chandler. She's registered six straight double-doubles, and was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Monday for her outstanding performances against Colorado and Utah.

Other Bruins have stepped up as well. Outside attacker Jessyka Ngauamo, who initially played against Washington to give Jordan Anderson a rest, is now playing in place of Reily Buechler. Ngauamo led the UCLA attack against Colorado with 19 kills, and added another 12 kills against Utah. Kyra Rogers, a middle blocker in high school who has been making the transition to outside hitter this season, has also seen increased playing time lately. Against the Utes, Rogers had a team-leading six blocks and added 9 kills with a team-leading .381 hitting percentage.

The Ducks (12-12, 6-9) represent a slight step up in level of competition. Until recently, Oregon was hanging around at the bottom of the national top-25. But more than that, Oregon is notoriously difficult to play against because of the tempo and movement of their offense. However, the Ducks are coming off a loss to Southern Cal yesterday and play tonight without a recovery day, while the Bruins are well-rested after nearly a week off.

With the Ducks fighting desperately for a place in the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins have to be sure to get on top of Oregon early. If the Ducks get a whiff of an upset-in-the-making, it could be a very long and difficult night for UCLA.