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Bruins Open 2022 Season at Utah State Invitational

Aug 25, 2022
Matti McKissock, one of UCLA's four incoming transfers, cheers on her teammates at Wednesday's practice.

LOS ANGELES – The No. 12 UCLA women's volleyball team begins its 2022 season with two matches at the Utah State Invitational this Friday and Saturday, hosted in the Wayne Estes Center in Logan, Utah. The Bruins open the year against Utah State on Friday, Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. PT and cap their first weekend of competition with a neutral site contest versus Cal Poly on Saturday, Aug. 27 at 9 a.m.
 
Both matches are available for streaming on the Mountain West Network.
 
UCLA in Season Openers
The Bruins are 49-3 all-time in season openers, with their last loss coming against No. 20 Baylor in 2019. UCLA's other two season-opening losses were to No. 14 Hawai'i in 1998 (0-3) and No. 25 Louisville in 1996 (1-3). The Bruins won last season's opening match at UC Davis, 3-1 (21-25, 26-24, 27-25, 25-21), after three double-digit kill performances from Mac May (12), Anna Dodson (12) and élan McCall (12). Shelby Martin led with 46 assists.
 
Preseason Rankings
UCLA enters the season ranked No. 12 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) preseason poll. This is UCLA's 553rd week ranked in the AVCA poll dating back to 1982, which ranks third most all-time behind Nebraska (587) and Stanford (563). Additionally, this is UCLA's highest AVCA preseason poll ranking since 2018 when it was slotted No. 11. UCLA, coming off its highest conference finish (2nd) since 2016, was tabbed to finish third and received one first-place vote in the Pac-12 Preseason Coaches Poll.
 
Bruins to Watch
Sophomore outside hitter Charitie Luper and graduate transfer middle blocker Lauren Forte (Florida) were named to the 2022 All-Pac-12 Preseason Team. Luper was a four-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week last season, ranking second on the squad with 227 kills despite playing in only 18 of UCLA's 31 matches. Luper's 3.39 kills per set were second only to Mac May (4.85 KPS). The duo led all Pac-12 scoring tandems through October of conference play with a combined 388 kills and 480 points prior to Luper's injury. Forte transfers into Westwood from Florida after a pair of All-SEC and AVCA All-American honors. In her two seasons as a Gator, Forte averaged 1.02 blocks per set (147.0 total blocks) and 2.06 kills per set at a .422 hitting percentage.
 
Who's Back?
In addition to returning Luper, UCLA brings back All-Pac-12 Team middle blocker Anna Dodson and All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention outside hitter élan McCall. The trio of Bruins helped push UCLA to sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 standings in 2021 after defeating Washington State (Oct. 29) and Washington (Oct. 31). It was the first time the Bruins sat atop the conference standings since 1999.
 
Dodson led UCLA with 109 total blocks and a .342 hitting percentage (min. 150 total attempts).  Dodson also ranked third on the team with 216 kills, racking up 10+ kills in seven matches all at above a .400 clip.
 
McCall was a two-way star for the Bruins in Fall 2021. She ranked third amongst Pac-12 pin hitters in digs per set (2.65) with 286 total digs on the season. McCall recorded 15 double-digit dig performances, including a career-best 28 digs in a victory over Oregon which tied a program three-set match record by Lainey Gera in 2011. Offensively, McCall dealt 40 service aces which was second on the squad behind Mac May as well as averaged 1.40 kills per set.
 
Outside hitter Iman Ndiaye, who was an All-Pac-12 Team and Pac-12 All-Freshman Team selection in Spring 2021, also returns to the team her junior campaign. Ndiaye compete in 18 of UCLA's 31 matches in Fall 2021, averaging 1.53 kills per set. Ndiaye had a standout performance in the Bruins' NCAA Second Round match up with UCF, tallying 10 block assists which was the most by a UCLA player that season.
 
Middle blocker Francesca Alupei is back in the fold for her sophomore season. As a freshman, Alupei started in 28 of UCLA's 31 matches and led the Bruins in the blocking category in 13 contests.
 
What's New, Bru?
UCLA returns nine letterwinners from last season's roster and looks to replace starters Mac May, who ranks third on the Bruins' career kills list (2,065), Zoe Fleck (grad transfer to Texas) and Shelby Martin (graduated). To do so, UCLA brought in four transfers, including two AVCA All-Region team members in setter Matti McKissock (Georgia Tech) and libero Mackenzie Cole (Duke). Two-time All-SEC member Lauren Forte also joined the Bruins in the offseason. In addition to head coach Michael Sealy's transfer haul, his 2022 class of incoming freshmen includes a pair of players tabbed to VolleyballMag.com's Fab 50 list in outside hitters Cheridyn Leverette and Grayce Olson.
 
McKissock, a native of Windermere, Fla., picked up two All-ACC First Team nods, was named ACC Setter of the Year in 2019 and was a two-time AVCA East Coast All-Region Team honoree in her four seasons at Georgia Tech. Last season, she helped produce two AVCA First Team All-American attackers in Julia Bergmann and Mariana Brambilla with an ACC-best 11.81 assists per set. She was instrumental in getting Georgia Tech to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004 in the 2020-21 season as well as its best finish in program history the next season at the Elite 8 in the Fall 2021 NCAA Championships.
 
Cole, from Long Island, N.Y., was named ACC Defensive Player in Fall 2021 and was a two-time All-ACC Second Team and AVCA All-East Coast Region selection in her four years at Duke. Cole led the Blue Devils in digs and digs per set in each of the last four seasons, accumulating 1,664 career digs which ranks fifth all-time in Duke's record books. Last season, she racked up 427 digs and averaged 4.19 digs per set.
 
Forte, a 6-3 star at both Florida and California, earned All-SEC accolades twice and was named an AVCA Third Team All-American in her two seasons at Florida in addition to two AVCA All-Southeast Region selections. She competed in 44 matches and 144 sets over two seasons as a Gator, averaging 2.06 kills per set at a .422 hitting percentage (296 total kills) and 1.02 blocks per set (147.0 total blocks). In Fall 2021, Forte ranked 17th in the nation and second in the SEC with a .401 hitting percentage as well as tallied five or more blocks in six matches.
 
A libero from Aptos, Calif., Dueck starred both indoors and on the beach at Cal Poly before transferring to UCLA. She was named to the Big West All-Freshman Team and selected All-Big West Honorable Mention after leading the Mustangs with 467 digs and ranking fourth in the conference at 4.17 digs per set. She also led her team and ranked second in the Big West with 41 service aces. After a successful indoor season, Dueck was named the AVCA National Beach Volleyball Pair of the Week alongside Addison Hermstad on May 2 after going a perfect 4-0 to help Cal Poly win its third straight Big West Championship and earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
 
Leverette, a 6-0 outside hitter out of Hampton, Ga., attended Eagle's Landing Christian Academy where she was honored as the 2021-22 Georgia Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year. Leverette was ranked No. 34 on PrepVolleyball.com's Top 150 class of 2022 recruits and named an AVCA High School Second Team All-American and Under Armour Second Team All-American in 2021. She was also selected as the Georgia Class 1A Private Player of the Year in 2021. In her senior season, she paced the state with 564 kills at a .416 hitting percentage to pair with 370 digs and 72 service aces, leading the Chargers (39-6) to the Georgia Class 1A Private semifinal. Leverette also participated in the 2021 USA Volleyball Indoor Girl's U17/18 National Team Development Program.
 
Olson, a 6-4 outside hitter out of Pleasanton, Calif., was a four-year letterwinner at Foothill High School. Olson was a three-time East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) Champion and three-time all-league selection. She was honored as the 2021 Northern California Section CIF Player of the Year her senior season after leading the Falcons with 655 kills (6.3 KPS) at a .349 hitting percentage, earning her 2021 AVCA High School First Team All-American and 2021 EBAL MVP honors.
 
Tufono, a 5-10 setter out of Aiea, Hawaii, was a four-year letterwinner at 'Iolani School in Honolulu. Tufono was tabbed at No. 3 on Hawaii's Fab 15 List, honoring the top 15 volleyball players in the state, and selected as a 2021 AVCA High School Second Team All-American her senior season after leading her team with 241 assists along with 108 kills. She was also honored as the 2022 Interscholastic League of Honolulu (ILH) Girls Volleyball Player of the Year and selected ILH First Team all four years of high school.
 
For Old Times' Sake
Prior to meeting Utah State in September 2014, the two program's previous 10 contests came between 1977-84. And before UCLA and Cal Poly's three run-ins across the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the remaining 13 matches were played from 1971-85.
 
Fall 2021 Recap
• The Bruins ended Fall 2021 in the Regional Semifinals against Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament
• UCLA recorded its highest conference finish (2nd) since 2016
• The Bruins had six ranked victories over No. 18 Georgia Tech, No. 14 Stanford, No. 16 Oregon, No. 22 Washington State, No. 8 Washington and No. 16 Utah
• Michael Sealy earned the first Pac-12 Coach of the Year honor of his career
• Mac May led the Bruins with 558 kills and 45 aces in her AVCA First Team All-American campaign
• May ranked second in the Pac-12 and ninth in the country with 4.85 kills per set
• May became the second Bruin in program history to win Pac-10/12 Player of the Year honors twice in a career (Daiva Tomkus)
• Zoe Fleck became a back-to-back winner of the Pac-12 Libero of the Year award
• Fleck led the Bruins with 463 digs (3.99)
 
Tracking Mac
UCLA volleyball legend Mac May (2017-21) – the Bruins' all-time leader in kills – is currently playing for U.S. Women's National Team at the Pan American Cup in Hermosillo, Mexico. May has seen action in one of USA's (3-0) three victories thus far coming in its sweep of Costa Rica on Aug. 24, racking up nine points.
 
Follow the Bruins
Follow UCLA Women's Volleyball at @UCLAWomensVB on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok and /UCLAWomensVB on Facebook. The Bruins rank ninth in the NCAA In total followers across their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts with 178,751.