It was opposite day in Pauley Pavilion on Friday.
No. 13 UCLA women’s volleyball, which has notched just one opening set against ranked opponents all season, took an early lead against No. 6 Washington after claiming the first set.
But despite the early success, the Bruins (8-4, 1-2 Pac-12) trudged through the following three sets, dropping the match 3-1 to the Huskies (13-1, 3-0) – 25-18, 20-25, 22-25 and 15-25. UCLA has started 1-2 or worse in conference play in five of the past six seasons.
Washington’s poor hitting percentage in the first set – .108 – was its third worst of the season. The Bruins’ momentous run came when they were ahead 13-12. Senior pin hitter Reily Buechler tallied three kills across the next six plays, while the Huskies garnered three errors.
The errors kept piling up for Washington, giving UCLA the upper hand heading into the second set.
That’s when everything seemed to unfold for the Bruins.
UCLA didn’t hold a lead in any of the final three sets, as Washington rushed out to an early lead thanks to a multitude of hitting errors by the Bruins. But the Huskies also utilized their serving skills to capture early leads. They accumulated 10 aces on the night.
Coach Michael Sealy’s squad stayed competitive for the second and third set, but was completely outmatched in the fourth. UCLA racked up 13 errors compared to just 10 kills.
Overall, most of the Bruins’ hitters struggled, as just two players garnered 10 or more kills. Only senior setter Sarah Sponcil boasted a hitting percentage greater than .300.
The Bruins have ultimately struggled against the Huskies since the turn of the decade, but have an opportunity to rebound Sunday against the Washington State Cougars (12-3, 1-2), who fell to USC in four sets earlier this week.
Washington State owns a similar attack force compared to Washington. Two players, junior pin hitters McKenna Woodford and Taylor Mims, head an experienced squad. Both have accrued more than 150 kills on the season.
The Cougars also own a consistent blocking corps, as they rank fifth in the nation with 3.23 blocks per set.
UCLA may have struggled against an overpowering Washington squad, but the Bruins haven’t lost back-to-back home conference matches since 2015. They will look to continue that streak against the Cougars.
This is your UCLA women’s volleyball vs. Washington State game thread.