There was a point in mid-October when Kyra Rogers said the Bruins had nearly clinched a postseason berth.
“We just grinded through, no matter what,” senior middle blocker Rogers said. “We were just fired up and really wanted to make it to the tournament.”
UCLA women’s volleyball (13-14, 8-12 Pac-12) was ranked No. 20 during the middle of a four-match win streak in which it had dropped only one set, beating ranked opponents such as then-No. 19 Washington and then-No. 23 Arizona.
But the win streak didn’t last long.
From that point on, the Bruins dropped nine of their last 11 matches – six of them sweeps. With a final loss at home to No. 15 USC, UCLA finished the season at 13-14, marking the program’s first-ever losing record.
Just one year after reaching the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament, the Bruins – who were still sitting just outside the top 25 – were ineligible for postseason play.
“It’s a bummer, but at the same time it’s fair,” said coach Michael Sealy. “Even if we had won against USC it still probably would have been 50-50. We just didn’t win enough matches.”
From the beginning of the season, sophomore outside hitter Mac May emerged as a consistent source of kills. She stepped up as a starter after the graduation of outside hitter Reily Buechler, leading the team with 373 kills and 34 service aces.
“She always had an amazing arm and hit hard, but when she was on the left her freshman year, she didn’t hit with a lot of range,” Sealy said. “She showed early on (this year), even in preseason, that … she could hit all the shots she needed to hit.”
Junior setter Kylie Miller also found her footing this season, filling the opening left by the graduation of setter Sarah Sponcil. Miller won the starting spot after splitting time with freshman setter Devon Chang for the first part of the season, and finished the season with 693 assists, 190 digs, and 27 blocks.
The Bruins will be graduating two seniors this season – libero Zana Muno and Rogers.
Muno finished her career as a Bruin with 1,607 digs, good for fourth place all-time at UCLA. Muno has spent time at a few positions in her time at UCLA, starting as a setter and then defensive specialist before switching to libero for the majority of this season.
Muno said that despite being disappointed with the outcome of the season, she was very proud of the wins the team got earlier in the season.
“We faced adversity really well this season,” Muno said. “Hopefully, the underclassmen can learn from this, and never want to be in this position again.”
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