It wasn’t pretty, but it was a victory.
After suffering two straight losses, No. 18 UCLA women’s volleyball (14-8, 7-6 Pac-12) worked its way back into the win column after conquering Arizona (9-13, 3-10) on the road. The Bruins, who had some issues with inconsistency this season, put themselves in holes they eventually dug out of.
The Wildcats took a quick 7-4 lead in the first after barraging UCLA with a flurry of kills. But before the set could get to its 20th point, the Bruins turned the tide.
UCLA retook the lead at 8-7, then continued to widen the gap between it and Arizona, eventually getting to a 21-11 score at one point. Then, after a few hitting errors from Wildcat pin hitter Kendra Dahlke, the Bruins captured the first set 25-14.
The second set was exhausting, as both teams endured 15 ties in the set alone. But after a long, competitive set, UCLA finally finished off Arizona 29-27.
After nearly equalizing the score, the Wildcats roared back in the third set. The Bruins managed to stay within two points throughout most of the set, but couldn’t thwart pin hitters Katie Smoot and Dhalke near its end. UCLA still led 2-1.
Then the Bruins put together its best set of the night. With a .435 hitting percentage in the fourth set, they ended the Wildcats’ comeback, finishing them off with an impressive 25-9 score.
Three UCLA players – senior pin hitter Reily Buechler, freshman pin hitter Mac May and sophomore blocker Madeleine Gates – all contributed more than 10 kills. Gates also tallied the most blocks on the night with seven.
With the victory, the Bruins stay afloat in the top-25 rankings. But now they have to avoid another trap game against Arizona State (10-13, 0-10).
The Sun Devils are in the midst of a disappointing year, currently on a 13-game losing streak. They’ve been outscored 39-9 during that stretch, including a 3-1 loss against UCLA.
Nevertheless, the Bruins will still need to contain heavy hitter Oluoma Okaro, who is averaging more than four kills per set this season. Griere Hughes and Ivana Jerermic – 2.98 and 2.76 kills per set, respectively – also need to be limited at the net.
Win two straight victories, UCLA could remain in line for an NCAA appearance and a chance to host the first two rounds in Westwood. But there is still a lot of improvement needed to be made to be deemed one of the country’s main contenders.
This is your UCLA women’s volleyball vs. Arizona State game thread.