Volleyball's NCAA tournament run cut short by UCLA

The AU Eagles lost a 2-1 lead to the UCLA Bruins on Friday night, falling 3-2 to the Bruins in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Gregory Gymnasium in Austin, Texas. The Eagles fell 26-28, 26-24, 23-25, 25-19, 15-11 in a thrilling loss to the Bruins.

Senior Angelina Waterman had a stellar game, notching 22 kills and nine digs, while fellow senior Magdalena Tekiel had 17 kills and 10 digs.

The Eagles opened the first set with an early 3-2 lead, but the Bruins’ attack systematically pulled ahead of the Eagle defense, up as much as 19-14, until AU squeezed past on an 8-2 run to take a 22-21 lead. A back and forth battle ensued, with each team taking the lead back from the other until AU was finally able to top the Bruins 28-26.

The second set proved to be dangerously close for both teams, with neither pulling more than three points ahead of the other. Behind some strong defense from Katerina Cinkova (eight blocking assists in the game), AU kept it close, but eventually lost the set, 26-24 after some heavy hits from UCLA’s Rachel Kidder and Sara Sage.

UCLA came into the third set with a fire ready to put away the Eagles for good, opening with a 5-2 lead, but AU’s Waterman, Tekiel and sophomore Bianca Richardson combined to pull the Eagles on top to an 11-8 lead, where a steady stream of points threw AU up to a 16-11 lead. The Bruins fought back, managing a 23-22 lead before finally losing to the Eagles, 25-23.

An early 11-6 lead in the fourth set gave AU hope to put the game away, but two huge runs, capped by a 7-0 advantage from the Bruins put the Eagles away 25-19 and forced a fifth and deciding set.

Coach Barry Goldberg began subbing freshman Juliana Crum into the game late in the fourth set for Cassandra Ricketts, who seemed to be having a tough time handling the UCLA powerhouse. Crum’s attack didn’t give the team the spark Goldberg was looking for, but the fresh legs were much needed on the floor.

The Bruins were still riding momentum in the fifth set, taking the first three points, but help from the Waterman attack put the Eagles on top, 8-5, before the teams switched sides at the halfway point.

A steady attack from UCLA’s Lauren van Orden vaulted the Bruins into the lead, 10-8. AU fought back, evening the score at 10 apiece, but UCLA’s late-game dominance showed through and the Bruins took the final set, 15-11.

UCLA attacked at 59 percent to AU’s 55 percent, while American outshot its opponent, .231 to .220. Richardson and Waterman sported the team’s top hitting percentage, hitting .429 and .271 respectively.

Dicey McGraw was UCLA’s best attack with 22 kills, while van Orden sported a double double (61 assists and 12 digs).

AU’s Alexandra Hammer had a season-high 52 assists and six blocking assists. AU also got defensive help from labero Deborah Frantz, totaling 11 digs in the match. AU’s 13 blocks were all well-placed, giving the team some much-needed momentum.

The loss ended a program-best 23-match win streak and 35 consecutive set wins.

The Bruins lost Saturday to ninth-ranked Texas, 3-1, ending their run in the tournament as well.


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