UCLA women’s volleyball looked poised for a difficult start to the year with a fresh, somewhat inexperienced, lineup.
Without the presence of senior leaders like Jordan Anderson and Taylor Formico, the Bruins needed to step up and fill in on the pins and on defense.
Thus far, that’s exactly what players have done, as No. 11 UCLA (5-0) enters a two-game series with No. 12 Nebraska (3-2) on Friday and Saturday undefeated. After winning three games at the Texaco Rainbow Wahine Invitational against stiff competition, the Bruins swept New Mexico State and UNLV with ease last weekend.
In some aspects, this year’s squad is similar to last year’s club.
Freshman pin hitter Mac May has slotted into former UCLA player Torrey Van Winden's – she transferred to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in the offseason – spot well. May leads the team in kill so far, averaging 3.78 per set.
Senior outside hitter Riley Buechler picked up where she left off a year ago. Last year’s leader in kills sits in second on the team in kills, spiking 54 in five games. With May’s quick development, coach Michael Sealy hasn’t had to rely as much on Buechler for points offensively.
Players have solidified their roles on the team, and while the Bruins utilized a 10-player rotation last year, Sealy has kept it down to eight players this year.
Nebraska dropped its first two games of the year against two top-20 teams in Florida and Oregon, but has rebounded since. The Cornhuskers lost just one set in their past 12, sweeping opponents in their previous three bouts.
A duo of pin hitters headline a team that mixes young talent with experienced veterans. Both freshman Jazz Sweet and junior Mikaela Foecke have amassed more than 45 kills thus far, with Sweet leading the team in hitting percentage at .343.
Other players that play a considerable role are senior middle blocker Briana Holman, who leads the team in blocks, and redshirt freshman blocker Lauren Stivrins, who is a threat at the net both as an attacker and blocker.
This is your UCLA women’s volleyball vs. Nebraska open thread.