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NCAA Tournament Round 2: UCLA Women's Volleyball vs. Michigan

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After sweeping Lipscomb in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins face a much stiffer challenge this evening when they face the 28th-ranked Michigan Wolverines in the second round of the tourney.

Kyle Okita/BruinsNation

UCLA Women's Volleyball

NCAA Tournament Round 2

Opponent: #28 Michigan (20-12)

When: 7:00 PM PST, Saturday, December 5, 2015

Where: John Wooden Center, Los Angeles, CA

Audio: None

Video: UCLA Live Stream

Live StatsGameTracker

Official UCLA Match Preview | Match NotesMichigan Match Preview

Los Angeles Sub-Regional Tournament CentralNCAA Tournament Bracket

The 12th-ranked Bruins (24-7) had no trouble eliminating Lipscomb in their first round match. If you missed the match, Joe has a recap of UCLA's 3-0 (25-10, 25-22, 25-15) win, or you can check out the story at uclabruins.com.

In the other first round game in the Los Angeles Sub-Regional, Michigan defeated Santa Clara 3-1. The Wolverines dropped the first set, 20-25, but then rebounded to take the next three 25-17, 25-17, 25-20.

Unlike Lipscomb, the Wolverines have plenty of size, but one of their most active hitters is 5'8" sophomore Caroline Knop. Knop is not a terribly efficient attacker, nor is she a strong blocker, but she's smart in attack and plays terrific defense.

Michigan is unusual in the extent to which it runs attacks through the middle. Junior middle blocker Abby Cole leads the Wolverines in kills, and sophomore MB Claire Kieffer-Wright is third in kills. That represents a huge chunk of Michigan's attack. Against Santa Clara, Kieffer-Wright, Cole and Knop were all in double digits in kills.

In spite of Michigan's domination of Santa Clara after the first set, the Wolverines hit just .190 for the match, which won't be good enough against a quality opponent. Given the strength of UCLA's defense, the Wolverine's will have to hit a lot better tonight to have a chance to advance to the Round of 16.

On the other hand, the Bruins put up impressive attacking numbers against the Bisons. UCLA hit nearly .500 for the match, and each of the Bruins' outside hitters notched 10 or more kills while hitting .400 or better. However, neither of UCLA's middle blockers were much involved in the offense, and that's generally not a good sign. The Bruins are at their best when they have a balanced attack. Or to put it another way, what worked against Lipscomb may not work against a higher quality opponent.

Perhaps the highlight of the Bruins' first round contest was seeing Ryann Chandler on the court, although her participation was limited as she works her way back from injury. It's great to know that she's potentially available to take over the setting duties if freshman setter Zana Muno struggles.

Although the Bruins have superior talent and have played a more challenging schedule, I'm hesitant to predict an easy win for UCLA. The Bruins played well in the final week of the regular season against two of the best teams in the nation--USC and Stanford--but could only manage splits against the Oregon and Arizona schools in the previous two weeks. However, this is a match the Bruins should win, and in fact, must win for Coach Sealy to lift the stature of his program. I expect the Bruins to get the job done tonight.

Go BRUINS!