Last night, the Bruins played a nerve-racking match against the UNC Tar Heels. While UCLA won 3-1, it was much closer than the final score would indicate. For the entire match, there were 37 tie scores. That’s almost 10 per set.
In the first set, the teams split the first 8 points before the Bruins went on a 5-1 to take a 9-5 lead. The Tar Heels followed with a 5-2 run of their own to narrow the gap to 11-10. It went back and forth and the team were tied 15-15. Another 5-1 run gave UCLA a 20-16 lead, but UNC went on a 7-2 run to take a 23-22 lead. While Claire Felix’s kill tied it back up at 23-23, the Tar Heels scored the next two points to take the first set.
The second set was even more exciting. The teams split the first 18 points and were tied 9-9. UCLA took a two-point lead on UNC service and attack errors. They held it until a Taylor Leith kill tied it at 13. They went back and forth again as the teams split the next 12 points to make it 19-19. UCLA won four of the five points to give the Bruins a 23-20 lead. UNC started to mount a comeback by scoring the next two points, but a kill by Reily Buechler ended that and Zana Muno closed out the set with a service ace.
After the intermission, UCLA came out with a vengeance. They started off the third set scoring the first five points. The Bruins would stretch the lead to six and then seven on a Claire Felix kill and a Kylie Miller ace and the score was 17-10, Bruins.
That was the point where the Tar Heels started to mount a comeback. They scored five of the next six to cut the Bruin lead to just three at 18-15. They split the next ten points and, with the score 23-20, the Tar Heels made their move. They scored the next three points to tie the game.
It was almost a replay of the second set as Reily Buechler got the kill on the next point to give the Bruins a 24-23 edge and another ace, this time by Kylie Miller, won the set for the Bruins.
The fourth set was a set of small runs by both teams. The Tar Heels scored the first point of set four, but the Bruins bounced back with four of the next five to take a 4-2 lead. The Tar Heels took the lead back with a 6-1 run of their own that made it 8-5, UNC. Another 4-1 UCLA run tied the set at 9, but UNC stormed right back winning four of the next five points to take a 13-10 lead. True to the back and forth battle of this set, The Bruins answered with a 4-1 run of their own and the teams were tied 14-14. North Carolina edged ahead again with a Julia Scoles kill, but that led to a 6-2 Bruin run and giving UCLA a 20-17 lead.
But the Tar Heels answered with three straight of their own to tie it back up at 20. Following a UCLA timeout, the Bruins took the lead back with two Jordan Anderson kills. UNC followed with three of the next four points and the teams were back to that familiar 23-23 tie.
Jordan Anderson gave the Bruins their first match point of the night, but, unlike the previous two sets, UCLA couldn’t follow it with another service ace. This time, Carolina tied it up at 24. Jennie Frager made it match point again, but a Buechler attack error tied it at 25. Claire Felix gave the Bruins their third match point, but UNC tied it again.
Torrey Van Winden took a set from Taylor Formico to give the Bruins their fourth match point and, then, she set Jordan Anderson who finally finished off the match.
There’s no doubt that Reily Buechler was the player of the match last night. She had 19 kills and 24 digs and just missed a 20-20 game. Claire Felix and Jordan Anderson also had big nights with 15 kills each while Jennie Frager added 11 more. Ryann Chandler and Kylie Miller both had double-doubles. Chandler had 32 assists and 12 digs while Miller had 29 assists and 11 digs. Taylor Formico added 24 digs to tie Buechler for the most digs in the match.
While last night’s match was tough, tonight’s matchup doesn’t look much easier.
Minnesota enters tonight’s match with a 35-game home winning streak. They haven’t lost in the Sports Pavilion in over two years. Their last home loss was against Nebraska on October 22, 2014. The Golden Gophers and the Bruins have had three common opponents: Hawai’i, San Diego and Stanford. Minnesota beat Hawai’i and San Diego but lost to Stanford. UCLA beat Hawai’i and Stanford twice but lost to San Diego.
Sarah Wilhite leads the Gophers with an average of 4.18 kills per set while both freshman Alexis Hart and senior Hannah Tapp are averaging just under 3 kills per set. Overall, Minnesota looks to be a team that doesn’t make as many mistakes as their opponents. The Gophers have just 477 attack errors on the year while UCLA has 603. Gopher opponents have made 684 while Bruin opponents have made 703.
So, making fewer mistakes on offense will likely be a key to winning tonight’s match.
#10 UCLA Women's Volleyball (26-6, 15-5 Pac-12)
Opponent: #2 Minnesota Golden Gophers (28-4, 17-3 Big Ten)
When: 7:00pm PT, Saturday, December 10, 2016
Where: Sports Pavilion, Minneapolis, MN
Stream: WatchESPN.com and the ESPN App
Live Stats: NCAA GameTracker
Official Game Preview