UCLA Women's Volleyball All Tuned Up for BYU
Last night's NCAA Tournament opener saw the Bruins functioning on all cylinders in one of the most lopsided matches UCLA has ever played. Can they keep that momentum going?
After sweeping Rider last night, the UCLA women’s volleyball will face the BYU Cougars tonight. Tonight’s match is scheduled for 7:30 pm and will be broadcast on ESPN3 and livestreamed on WatchESPN.com. The Cougars are an interesting matchup. While they went 16-1 in the regular season, all but one of those matches were against WCC teams and that leaves me skeptical of BYU’s record because of the quality of the opponents they faced this season. Their opponents are on a lower level than most, if not all of UCLA’s opponents in the Pac-12.
Last Time Out
The Bruins destroyed the Rider Broncs. There just isn’t another way to describe last night’s total victory. While I expected a sweep, I wasn’t expecting it to be as lopsided as it turned out to be.
How bad was it?
Well, Rider was unable to score consecutive points more than twice for the entire match and both of those instances came in the first set.
The Broncs were also literally giving points away to the Bruins. They had six service errors in the first set alone. That’s a service error on half of their serves. They manages to get the service errors under control in the second and third sets, making just one in the second and one more in the third.
UCLA scored the first point of the game on — you guessed it — a Rider service error. A pair of kills by Mac May gave the Bruins a fast 3-0 lead. While the Broncs managed to cut UCLA’s lead to a point at 3-2, there was no tying this set up. With the Bruins up 6-5, UCLA went on a 6-0 run and it only got worse for Rider from there. The Bruins easily took this set, 25-12.
Would you believe me if I told you that was Rider’s most competitive set? Well, it was.
The second set was close early only because the teams alternated scoring the first four points. A 5-0 UCLA run basically finished this one off. In fact, after Rider managed to score to make it 7-3, the Bruins followed with an 8-0 run. The reality is that, in total, it was really an 16-2 run. UCLA found a way to hold Rider to single digits in this set, 25-8.
After the break, UCLA came out of the locker room bound and determined to put an end to Rider’s misery, but, of course, there needed to be a little more misery first. So, the Bruins began the third and final set by winning 11 of the first 12 points. Yeah, UCLA didn’t take their collective feet off the gas here. Soon, it was 24-9 and UCLA was on the verge of eliminating the Broncs and moving on in the tournament.
It seems weirdly fitting that UCLA’s next and final point of the match came on — you guessed it — another Rider service error.
Mac May led the Bruins in kills last night but, despite UCLA’s total domination, she only had 14 kills. She also added 4 aces. elan McCall added nine kills while Alexis Light had six. No one from Rider had more than 4 kills. Audrey Pak led the Bruins with 23 assists while Kate Lane had 14. Zoe Fleck led the team with 16 digs.
For the match, UCLA had a .567 hitting percentage as a team while Rider had a -0.13 hitting percentage. Yes, they had one more attack error, 18 total, than they had kills, 17.
The Cougars come into tonight’s game having lost just one match all season. That happened on February 23 at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu when they were swept by Pepperdine. Their last match was on March 31 against Santa Clara which they swept.
The Cougs are led by Taylen Ballard-Nixon, who posted 222 kills during the regular season along with a .274 hitting percentage, and Kate Grimmer, who had 170 kills and a .341 hitting percentage.e
Even if BYU is all they are cracked up to be, having the last 15 days off may just leave the Cougs a little rusty. At least, the Bruins got to shake some of that rust off, if there was any, last night against Rider.
I like the Bruins’ chances in this matchup. UCLA got to shake off any rust last night and BYU is due for a loss because of their weak conference schedule. While it could go to a fifth set, I like the Bruins in four tonight.
NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament
Teams: UCLA Bruins (15-6) vs. BYU Cougars (16-1)
When: 7:30 pm PT, Thursday, April 15, 2021
Where: CHI Health Center Convention Center, Omaha, NE
Live Stream: WatchESPN.com and the ESPN app
Live Audio: None
Live Stats: NCAA StatBroadcast