The Bruins are ending the regular season against their Pac-12 rivals.
No. 13 UCLA women’s volleyball (22-4, 15-3 Pac-12) will face California (7-22, 0-18) at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday and USC (14-14, 9-9) at the Galen Center on Friday to close out its regular-season slate.
The last five matches for the Bruins have ended in three sets, with UCLA sweeping Colorado, Oregon State, Arizona State and Arizona. The most recent loss for the blue and gold was from being swept by Oregon in Eugene on Nov. 14.
As the last scheduled home match of this season, the game against the Golden Bears will be the Bruins’ Senior Day. A win against Cal would cement an undefeated regular-season record for UCLA in Westwood.
“It’s the fans,” said graduate student setter Shelby Martin. “They provide such an electric energy, and it helps us when we feel like we don’t have it in us.”
The matchup between the Bruins and the Golden Bears will be the first between the two programs this season. Last season, Cal was UCLA’s season-opening opponent, playing the blue and gold in a doubleheader in January that saw two Bruin victories.
After a showdown with their Northern California rivals, the Bruins will face their crosstown rivals the day after Thanksgiving. At the beginning of Pac-12 play, UCLA defeated USC at home 3-1 with freshman outside/opposite hitter Charitie Luper racking up 19 kills.
With Luper out indefinitely since Nov. 5, sophomore outside/opposite hitter Allison Jacobs has been stepping in on the outside, averaging 2.85 kills per set in the blue and gold’s last six contests.
Although the face-off against the Trojans marks the end of conference play and the transition to the postseason, Martin said there’s still time to get better.
“We still have two games left, and there is still a lot of room for improvement,” Martin said. “We can still keep perfecting every aspect of our game, and that will lead us into a long run in the tournament.”
The NCAA tournament is set to start Dec. 2 with regional venues to be determined. Last year, BYU swept UCLA in the second round.
Regardless of the upcoming tournament, coach Michael Sealy said the team has to focus on their side and play good volleyball.
“We are going to be in the tournament no problem,” Sealy said. “The last two (matches) are very important in terms of trying to earn a seed. If you can end up in the top 16, you can host, which is huge.”
The NCAA tournament bracket will be announced this Sunday – two days after the conclusion of the regular season. The Pac-12 champion receives an automatic bid, with UCLA and Washington currently tied atop the conference standings.
Jacobs said that with two games to play before the NCAA selection show, the team is primarily concerned with closing out the season on a strong note.
“Our coaches have a big emphasis on not thinking about that type of stuff, so I don’t even know what day the bids are coming out,” Jacobs said. “We will watch it as a team, and we will be excited about where we end up, but for now it’s focusing on Cal and then USC.”