After nine sets in three days, the Bruins split two matches in Oregon.
UCLA women’s volleyball (15-12, 9-9 Pac-12) completed its season sweep of Oregon State (7-21, 2-16) on Sunday in Corvallis, returning to .500 in conference play and handing the Beavers their ninth straight loss. The win came after UCLA fell in five sets to No. 12 Oregon (21-5, 15-3) in Eugene on Friday.
“At this point in the season, we’ve been going for so long, any win is great,” said coach Michael Sealy. “This is a long, arduous season. … The girls were really, really gritty and stayed tough. They were able to get a win today (Sunday) and played a tough match against Oregon.”
Although the Bruins led the Ducks 2-1 going into the fourth, they ultimately dropped the last two to lose the season series. UCLA tied its season high in aces with 11 on the day.
The match was highlighted by a program-record-tying eight service aces by freshman setter Mokihana Tufono.
“I feel blessed to be in this position, and I couldn’t have done it by myself,” Tufono said. “I just feel grateful and blessed to have tied the record, but more importantly, I’m grateful that we put up a really good fight against Oregon.”
On Sunday against Oregon State, UCLA began the match with a back-and-forth first set. The Bruins fell behind initially, allowing the Beavers to establish a lead but then went on a 5-0 run to bring the score to 16-12. Two errors, a kill, an ace and a bad set from UCLA let Oregon State go on its own 5-0 run to go up 19-18.
But, rallying behind a string of kills, the Bruins ultimately were able to narrowly take the set 25-23.
Sealy said the team was able to bounce back from mistakes to find early success.
“We did enough of the right things to get a win,” Sealy said. “I do think maybe we missed too many assignments today (Sunday). … We gave up too many outside hitter kills down the line today, so just the little things like that made it more difficult on us.”
In the second set, UCLA was outhit .429 to .294. It again held a mid-game lead at 13-12 but quickly relinquished it as Oregon State came away victorious, 25-21.
The third set saw Oregon State hold its first lead at 22-21. UCLA had a set point at 24-23, but two straight kills by the Beavers allowed them to establish their first set point of the set.
In the following 17 plays, the Bruins and the Beavers exchanged side-outs, with the Beavers racking up nine set points before a kill from graduate student outside hitter/opposite élan McCall gave the Bruins their second set point of the set.
A kill from junior outside hitter/opposite Iman Ndiaye – her fifth of the set – ended the battle, with UCLA taking the set 35-33.
McCall said the Bruins’ mental fortitude allowed them to stay strong and finish off the set with a win.
“It goes back to the courage piece,” McCall said. “Not just rolling over and letting a team win in situations like that, and just having the mindset that we can win, and we can do it.”
After the lengthy third set, the two teams played their shortest set of the match. UCLA posted a match-high .486 hitting percentage en route to a 25-19 set to close out the victory.
The Bruins secured their highest kill total of any match this season with 72 against the Beavers. Five players hit double digits, including McCall, who led the way with a season-high-tying 18 kills. The graduate student outside hitter/opposite also had her 10th double-double of the season.
“It’s very important to have a lot of hitters who you can go to instead of just one person that people rely on,” McCall said. “Because at any given night, they could have an off night, so being able to rely on other people and not putting pressure on one person is very important.”
Tufono added that the team’s camaraderie and positive attitude were key to bouncing back from its loss against Oregon and finding success in close sets.
“We did an amazing job of just pushing through and leaning on each other and being successful,” Tufono said.
UCLA will play its penultimate game of the regular season against Washington State in Pullman at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.