For the fourth consecutive season, UCLA women’s volleyball swept the competition at their Hawaiian season-opening tournament, capturing three victories against NCAA Tournament teams.
But it’s still early season tournament time, as the No. 11 Bruins (3-0) travel to New Mexico to compete in the New Mexico State Springhill Suites Invitational. UCLA will play New Mexico State (2-2) and UNLV (3-2) on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
The Bruins faced each team just once since 2000, sweeping both teams 3-0. The Aggies and Rebels generally aren’t top-tier programs. Yet, UNLV finished in the top three of the Mountain West last year, while New Mexico State dominated the WAC the past two years, garnering a 27-1 record across both seasons.
Questions lingered entering last weekend’s opening game. And answers followed with every passing game.
UCLA may not have pin hitter Torrey Van Winden anymore, but freshman Mac May proved she has the ability to fill in the open slot. The Iowa product hammered a team-high 43 kills for the Bruins in Honolulu. She’s just one of two freshmen – Jenny Mosser was the other – that played in all three matches.
Junior Zana Muno played libero for the majority of the sets, while sophomore Savvy Simo filled in as a defensive specialist. They compiled the most digs over across the tournament, with Muno recording 58 overall – nearly five per set.
Senior outside hitter Riley Buechler and sophomore middle blocker Madeleine Gates contributed with 33 kills apiece, good for second-most behind May. Mosser and junior middle blocker Kyra Rogers each added 25 kills of their own.
Together, the Bruins own a .278 percent hitting percentage thus far. They finished with a .245 hitting percentage through 34 games last year.
New Mexico State hasn’t been as dominant on the attack, accruing a .192 hit percentage through four games. But their opponents haven’t been as successful, recording a .138 hitting percentage against the Aggies.
UCLA may need to get ahead quickly, as New Mexico State has been stronger in the first two sets than in any other. The Aggies have outscored opponents 96-80 in first sets and 94-62 in second sets.
They are led by three seniors. On the pins, Kassandra Tohm and Jordan Abalos have killed opposing blockers, accumulating a combined 103 kills. Middle blocker Sasha-Lee Thomas is also active offensively, adding 43 kills, but also seven blocks thus far.
This is your UCLA women’s volleyball vs. New Mexico State open thread.