For the past three seasons, UCLA women’s volleyball has traveled to Hawaii for a preseason tournament. And for three seasons, the Bruins have dominated, going a combined 9-0.
No. 13 UCLA will look to keep its successful stretch alive tonight against No. 22 San Diego. The Toreros qualified for the NCAA tournament last season with a 24-6 record, but lost to Baylor 3-2 in the first round.
In their lone bout last season, San Diego prevailed 3-1. But that was before the Bruins switched into their 6-2 formation, which lasted the majority of the season.
Now, coach Michael Sealy is reverting back to the more traditional 5-1. Last year’s club focused primarily on offense, with then-senior outside hitter Jordan Anderson and rising senior Riley Buechler at the pins.
Buechler may be the only major threat returning from last year, but a slew of versatile players join her, including newcomer senior Sarah Sponcil, who is slated to take over the setting duties. Junior Zana Muno and sophomore Savvy Simo can play essentially anywhere, but could share time as liberos, considering both are deemed defensive specialists.
But, on a team with just two seniors, three juniors, and four sophomores, the biggest question for the Bruins is which of the seven freshmen are going to step up? Because to keep the Hawaiian winning streak alive and to have a successful season, the Bruins are going to need their underclassmen to play well.
The Toreros lost their two best attackers in Lisa Kramer and Lauren Schad, but enter 2017 with four girls that compiled more than 150 kills on the year. Defensively, they accrued less digs than the Bruins.
San Diego’s biggest weapon could be its serving, as seven Toreros notched 10 or more aces in 2016. But coach Jennifer Petrie’s squads are always a threat from all over the court.
She’s led them to 14 NCAA tournament appearances during her tenure down south.
This is your UCLA women’s volleyball open thread.