On the 50th Anniversary of the opening of Pauley Pavilion, the UCLA Women's Volleyball hosted the Stanford Cardinal in a women's volleyball match to decide which team would finish the regular season in third place in the Pac-12. And it would be a bittersweet final home match for UCLA's seniors who were honored before the start of the match.
The first set saw ten tie scores and five lead changes, but, in the end, UCLA just made too many mistakes and Stanford took the early lead winning the first set by a score of 25-18. In the first set, the Bruins managed 11 kills while making 8 attack errors on 39 attempts for a .077 hitting efficiency. Comparitively, the hitting efficiency for the Cardinal was .333 on 36 attempts. Stanford won the first set 25-18.
But the Bruins took away Stanford's initial momentum by winning the next two sets.
Not surprisingly, UCLA made fewer errors in Set 2 and finished the set with a .382 hitting efficiency on 34 attempts. Meanwhile, Stanford's hitting efficiency for Set 2 was only .250 on 36 attempts. As a result, UCLA won the second set 25-22.
The Bruin momentum continued into the third set. Again, they minimized their attack errors while killing 17, resulting in a .325 hitting efficiency on 40 attempts in Set 3. The Cardinal again saw their hitting efficiency drop in Set 3. In this set, they had 14 kills and 5 attack errors for a .214 hitting efficiency.
But, the Cardinal came back strong in Set 4. Stanford had a hitting efficiency of .455 on 33 attempts compared to the Bruins' HE of .250 on 40 tries. Most of this set was all Stanford because there was only one lead change in this set and that was when Stanford made it 5-4 in favor of the Cardinal.
That forced a fifth and final set, which is something that has become the norm for UCLA. Only one of the team's first twenty-five matches went to five sets, but five of the team's last six matches have gone a full five sets.
Unlike Wednesday night when the Bruins were able to beat Southern Cal in five sets, they weren't able to pull this one out. Like the entire match, the fifth set was a seesaw battle which saw four lead changes.
The fifth set started off with Stanford scoring despite the best efforts of Taylor Formico who made an absolutely incredible dig which, unfortunately, went out of bounds for the Bruins giving Stanford a 1-0 lead.
UCLA came back after falling behind initially in Set 5, but it wasn't enough as Stanford proved too much for the Bruins tonight and won the fifth set 15-11. In the end, UCLA made just too many attack errors in the fifth set which resulted in the team having a .000 hitting efficiency. While Stanford's wasn't much better at .182, it was enough to win the set 15-11 and give Stanford the match (25-18, 22-25, 20-25, 25-21, 15-11).
Afterwards, departing senior Karly Drolson spoke about what it was like playing in Pauley for the final time. "Once I got out here, I totally forgot about [the fact that it was the last time playing in Pauley]. But, now, it's good to remember all the times we had in Pauley. I think we're ready to start the tournament and just to start thinking about that."
Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore Jessyka Ngauamo spoke about how losing to the number six team in the country affects her mindset as the team prepares for the NCAA tournament. Ngauamo said, "I think it highlighted some of the weaknesses we have. So, we can work on those weaknesses this week."
Afterwards, Bruin head coach Michael Sealy seemed pleased with his team's play after facing two top ten teams in three days, despite the fact that the Cardinal had a decided size advantage. Sealy explained:
Stanford poses a couple of matchup challenges with some of the height and size. So, I think the bottom line is we walked out of the locker room [tonight] with head high, knowing we played two tough teams tough and we just move into the tournament next week.
In discussing what's next in the NCAA Tournament, Sealy said:
We just played numbers 1 and 6. I don't think anybody is completely out of our realm of capabilities of playing well against and beating. I think there were teams last year we probably weren't going to touch. With this team, I haven't seen an opponent out there yet that shows me, 'Oh, we can't play with that team.' So, it comes down to the luck of the draw in the tournament to figure out who we're matched up against.
Sealy was optimistic that the team will host Rounds 1 and 2 of the tournament next weekend. The team will find out for sure tomorrow night when the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament Selection Show airs on ESPNU at 6pm PT.