No. 13 UCLA Women’s Volleyball has neither endured rough stretches nor prolonged winning streaks following the first few weeks of the season. Now the Bruins have an opportunity to string together multiple key victories on the road to propel them up the Pac-12 standings.
To accomplish the feat, UCLA (12-5, 5-3 Pac-12) will have to thwart No. 12 Utah (16-3, 7-1) first, a team that has been a major surprise in the Pac-12 this season. The Utes sit in second place in the conference behind juggernaut Stanford.
California (11-8, 2-6) didn’t pose as much of a threat in UCLA’s previous bout. The Bruins quickly defeated the Golden Bears in straight sets last week without much resistance – 25-16, 25-22 and 25-15.
Just two players from either team eclipsed the 10-kill mark, with freshman pin hitter Mac May being the lone Bruin. Senior outside hitter Riley Buechler’s 10-kill streak ended, as she compiled just nine with a paltry .171 hit percentage. She still leads UCLA in kills this year with 198.
The Bruins, who were known for starting games lackadaisical, collected its longest point streak of the year by kicking off the first set with 11 unanswered points. The Golden Bears’ poor play –they committed 13 errors in the set – allowed UCLA to cruise in the opening set.
Cal battled back, keeping a lead throughout the majority of the second set. But the Bruins capped off the set by winning nine of the final 13 points.
UCLA pulled off an even more impressive streak to punch the nail in the coffin.
Up 19-15, the Bruins won the final six points, with senior setter Sarah Sponcil ending any chance of a comeback with her lone ace of the night. The Golden Bears struggled on the evening, hitting just .156, compared to a more stable .323 percentage by UCLA.
Utah poses a much more intimidating squad.
The Bruins have the advantage based on the outcomes of their recent affairs – UCLA currently boasts a four-game winning streak against Utah. But the Utes are much-improved, owning a .277 hit percentage this year. They hit .252 last season, a glaring reason why they finished the year 20-12 overall.
Senior pin hitter Adora Anae is the team’s most impactful player and a pivotal reason why it has been more successful in 2017. The Hawaii product has tallied double-digit kills in all but one game this year, including a season-high 26 against Kentucky early in the season.
She hasn’t completely carried the cadres of capable hitters – Carly Trueman and Berkeley Oblad both have 150-plus kills – but remains a leading figure on the court and potentially an Pac-12 First Team member by the season’s end.
If UCLA hopes to escape with a victory, defenders may have to limit Anae’s thunderous hits to a minimum.
This is your UCLA women’s volleyball vs. Utah game thread.