UCLA Takes on LMU, San Jose State
LOS ANGELES – The No. 22-ranked UCLA women's volleyball (4-1) team heads out to the next stop on its preseason tour, though it won't be going far. The Bruins play Loyola Marymount (2-3) Thursday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. PT and San Jose State (4-1) Friday, Sept. 9 at LMU's Gersten Pavilion. Both matches are free and open to the public. There is no available livestream for viewing.
The contests were previously scheduled to be played at San Jose State, but due to excessive heat concerns, they will be played at the campus of Loyola Marymount University.
Week in Review
The Bruins return to the mainland as Outrigger Volleyball Challenge champions after defeating West Virginia and Texas State in straight sets and rallying for a five-set victory over Hawai'i in Honolulu last weekend. Outside hitter élan McCall was named the Tournament MVP while middle blocker Anna Dodson and setter Matti McKissock were also named to the All-Tournament Team. McCall led the Bruins with 31 kills over the three matches, including a 16-kill, 13-dig effort in the finale against the Rainbow Wahine for her first double-double in a UCLA uniform. Dodson totaled 29 kills at a blistering .415 while recording nine blocks, defensively. McKissock averaged 10.82 assists per set over the weekend as well.
Luper Lets it Rain on Bows
Sophomore outside hitter Charitie Luper made her season debut in grand fashion at Hawai'i last Sunday, putting up the first 20-point performance by a Bruin this year. Luper went off for 17 kills at a career-high .455 hitting percentage (17-2-33), three block assists and two service aces for 20.5 points on the night, reaching the 20-point plateau for the third time in her career. Luper was at the service line for six points in the Bruins 7-0 run to steal the fourth set in a miraculous comeback after trailing 23-18. Luper dealt two service aces for the 23rd point and set point, and was responsible for a team-high 8.5 points in the set (six kills, one block assist). The Dallas, Texas native went on to finish the match with a flawless fifth set, swinging for three kills on three attempts.
Freshman outside hitter Grayce Olson led the Bruins with 14 kills (14-5-31) in their sweep of Texas State last Friday. The Pleasanton, Calif. native now has two double-digit kill performances in her first five collegiate matches. Before coming to Westwood, Olson was a four-year letterwinner at Foothill High School and crowned an East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) Champion three times. Olson was also a three-time EBAL 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.
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The Bruins rank fifth in the nation and second in the Pac-12 conference with 3.11 blocks per set. UCLA opened the season with 20 team blocks at Utah State on Aug. 26 which was its most in a match since Sept. 2, 2018 versus San Diego (22 team blocks). The Bruins have notched 10+ blocks in three of their five matches this season.
Leading the defensive charge is sophomore middle blocker Francesca Alupei who is averaging 1.44 blocks per set with 26 total roofs (5-21) so far this season. Her 1.44 BPS rank fourth in the Pac-12. Most recently against the Rainbow Wahine, Alupei set career-highs in both total blocks (9 BA) and points (12.5 PTS). Alupei also established a career-high in solo blocks with three at Utah State to open the season. Alupei has also taken on responsibilities in the Bruins' serving rotation this season. In the second set against Hawai'i, she engineered a 9-0 run from the service line, featuring an ace, as UCLA catapulted to 10-1 advantage and eventual 25-13 set victory. Alupei is also averaging 1.44 kills per set at an efficient .333, which ranks second on the team (min. two matches played).
In Front of the Ohana!
Freshman setter Mokihana Tufono made her collegiate debut in front of her family and friends in her home island of O'ahu against the Rainbow Wahine last Sunday and did not disappoint. The Aiea, Hawaii native entered in the first set to cheers from the Hawai'i crowd, and played sets three, four and five. She set six total balls and was rewarded with three assists. She also dealt the match point for the Bruins.
Outside hitter élan McCall leads the Bruins with 54 kills and is three shy of the team-lead in digs with 48 through the first five matches of the year. McCall recorded her first UCLA career double-double with 16 kills and 13 digs against Hawai'i. McCall has tallied double-digit digs in three contests thus far, including a UCLA individual-high 14 digs in against Texas State. Last season, McCall ranked third amongst Pac-12 attackers in digs per set (2.65). Her 28 digs versus Oregon on Oct. 22, 2021 tied a program record for a three-set match (Lainey Gera, 2011).
Eight new faces – four transfers, three freshman and redshirt freshman Katie McCarthy – have made their first appearances in a UCLA uniform this season. Among the transfers were setter Matti McKissock (Georgia Tech), libero Mackenzie Cole (Duke), Peyton Dueck (Cal Poly) and Lauren Forte (California/Florida) Outside hitters Grayce Olson (Foothill HS), Cheridyn Leverette (Eagle's Landing Christian Academy) and Mokihana Tufono ('Iolani School) made their collegiate debuts.
UCLA put on a serving clinic in its straight-set sweep of Texas State last Friday with 11 aces. Libero Mackenzie Cole led the Bruins with five service aces, which was one shy of tying a career high. McCall and Alupei also dealt a pair. UCLA served a total of 73 attempts compared to Texas State's 55. The Bruins also passed it well, siding out on over 72.3 percent (40-55) of the Bobcats' serves. Texas State had just one ace in the match.
Old Stomping Grounds
Head coach Michael Sealy reclaimed the advantage in the historic UCLA-Hawai'i series which dates back to 1974, with UCLA leading 39-38. Sealy served as associate head coach for the Rainbow Wahine from 2006-09 under legendary Hawai'i head coach and the NCAA all-time winningest coach Dave Shoji. Sealy helped Hawai'i to a berth in the National Semifinals in 2009. Sealy's record during his tenure at Hawai'i was 119-19 (.862 winning percentage).
Bruins in the Rankings
UCLA enters the third week of the season ranked No. 22 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll. This is UCLA's 555th week ranked in the AVCA poll dating back to 1982, which ranks third most all-time behind Nebraska (589) and Stanford (565). 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.