Easy Decision To Be A Bruin
By Grant Gurewitz
For someone who had to be dragged to her first volleyball practice just to make her friend happy, Rachael Kidder has come a long way. The junior outside hitter from Moorpark, Calif., has developed into one of the biggest offensive threats in the Pac-12 for the No. 6 UCLA Bruins.
Heading into the weekend hosting Colorado and Utah, Kidder ranks fifth in the Pac-12 and 20th in the country for kills (4.37) and points per set (4.94).
Last season, Kidder was named to the All-Pac-10 Conference honorable mention team after finishing second on the squad with 3.47 kills per set and 3.90 points per set and fourth with 0.61 blocks per set. She was second on the squad with 20 double-figure kills matches, including four contests with at least 20 kills.
The team aspect of the game is a big reason Kidder is so passionate about the game, as the team is "really playing for each other. No one girl can win a game on their own."
Rachael is not the first Kidder in the UCLA family. Her father John was a four-year offensive lineman for Bruin football, which is why being a Bruin was an easy choice when Rachael received an offer. Kidder said her father helps to keep her priorities straight and reminds her what is means to be a student-athlete at UCLA.
"People will tell you playing volleyball here is a job," Kidder says in reference to the competitive nature and high expectations for the team. Michael Sealy, in his second year as coach, knows these expectations first hand. In 1993, Sealy led the Bruins men's volleyball team to a national championship - something that he would love for his current team to experience.
With the team ranked so highly this season, it would be easy to overlook some conference games, but Sealy works week-to-week and keeps his players focused on the upcoming games. The ranking gives the team confidence.
"It is good to know what we are ranked, but we don't get caught up in it," Kidder says.
With five of the top 10 teams in the country residing in the Pac-12, it makes for tough competition every weekend. Kidder cites the team's ability to relax away from the court as a key to success on the court.
On what she says is a laid-back team, she considers herself an outcast. "I'm not a typical Southern California girl," Kidder laughs. "I love country music and love NASCAR."
Being an upperclassman Kidder, has had her opportunity to learn from older players of the past and now she is stepping into the leadership role.
She leads by example on the court, according to Sealy, while Kelly Reeves and Lainey Gera are more the vocal type.
Being an upperclassman has other perks. In the previous two years, Kidder had to sit towards the back of the traveling vans and had to settle with the music selection. Now as an upperclassman, she gets to sit in the front passenger seat while assistant coach (and fellow country fan) Dan O'Dell drives. The music selection now is an easy choice for the two.
"I have converted a few players (to like country music)," laughs Kidder.
At the halfway point of the season, the Bruins look to finish strong in Pac-12 play and go deep into the postseason.