Bruins Conclude Preseason with Aztecs and No. 8 Toreros
LOS ANGELES – The UCLA women's volleyball team (5-2) concludes its preseason with a pair of matches at San Diego State (2-7) in Peterson Gym on Thursday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. PT and at No. 8 San Diego (7-1) in Jenny Craig Pavilion on Friday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. The Bruins' match versus the Aztecs will be available for streaming on the Mountain West Network and their match with the Toreros on the WCC Network.
Outside hitter élan McCall leads UCLA in both kills (72) and digs (72) through the first seven matches of the season.
Week in Review
The Bruins split last week's competition with a loss at LMU (24-26, 20-25, 19-25) and a four-set victory over San Jose State (25-14 20-25, 26-24, 25-17). It was the Bruins' first time being swept since its NCAA Regional loss to the eventual 2021 NCAA Champion Wisconsin Badgers. Against San Jose State, élan McCalll led UCLA with her second double-double of the season with 11 kills and 11 digs. McCall went without an attack error on her 25 swings, finishing the match with a .440 hitting percentage. Setter Kate Lane entered the match in the third set with the Bruins trailing, 13-11, and sparked the Bruins with a block and kill as UCLA went on to win the set 26-24. Joining McCall in double-figure kills was Grayce Olson and Iman Ndiaye. Ndiaye took a career-high 31 swings in the match.
After her 11 kills versus San Jose State last Friday, freshman Grayce Olson now has three double-digit kill performances through her first seven collegiate matches. Olson also led the Bruins with 14 kills (14-5-31) in their sweep of Texas State on Sept. 2. 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.
Luper Lets it Rain on Bows
Sophomore outside hitter Charitie Luper made her season debut in grand fashion at Hawai'i on Sept. 4, 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.
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The Bruins rank third in the nation and first in the Pac-12 conference with 3.08 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 four of their seven matches this season.
Leading the defensive charge is sophomore middle blocker Francesca Alupei who is averaging 1.46 blocks per set with 35 total roofs (5-30) so far this season. Her 1.46 BPS rank fourth in the Pac-12. Most recently against the Spartans, Alupei eclipsed five blocks in a match for the fourth time this season with eight (0-8). 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 Hawai'i 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 in both kill with 72 and digs with 70. McCall recorded her first UCLA career double-double with 16 kills and 13 digs against Hawai'i. McCall has tallied double-digit digs in four consecutive contests and five total this season. Her season-high 14 digs came against Texas State on Sept. 2. 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.
Bruins in the Rankings
UCLA enters the third week of the season unranked for the first time since week 12 of the 2019 season. UCLA has been ranked in the AVCA poll 555 times dating back to 1982, which ranks third most all-time behind Nebraska (590) and Stanford (566). 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.
UCLA Week-by-Week: (Preseason/12, Week 1/23, Week 2/23, Week 3/NR)