The Bruins’ final match of the regular season brought history-making moments, intensity and a suspenseful ending – albeit not one that ended in their favor.
Despite graduate outside/opposite hitter Mac May joining a renowned club on Friday night, No. 13 UCLA women’s volleyball (23-5, 16-4 Pac-12) fell in five sets to USC (15-15, 10-10 Pac-12) at the Galen Center, giving their rivals an upset victory to end the regular season. The Bruins also lost their hold on first-place in the conference heading into the final weekend of matches, as a win would have locked them into at least a share of the Pac-12 championship.
May needed 19 kills against USC to join the 2,000 kills club, and in the fourth set, she secured her place among former UCLA greats. The record didn’t end up powering her team to victory, though.
The Bruins began the match with promise, but as the night went on, the hope quickly faded as the Trojans responded to every blow dealt.
The first set started off hot for the Bruins, with four straight points putting them up 5-3. May had consecutive kills within the sequence, a springboard for her big night. After a kill from sophomore outside/opposite hitter Allison Jacobs, the score moved to 10-5, forcing the Trojans to call an early timeout as an attempt to slow down the one-sided action. Jacobs had 11 kills and 14 digs in the match.
Carrying the momentum, the lead became seven with a 19-12 score, which forced another USC timeout. The timeout, however, proved dividends as the Trojans scored four in a row, causing coach Michael Sealy to call a timeout of his own for a break in action.
Needing two points to win the first set, May once again collected a pair of kills to secure the Bruins’ early 1-0 advantage. May had five kills within the set, while also blocking two kill attempts for points.
Set No. 2 started slow and ended in losing fashion for the Bruins, who fell behind 8-4 early and then 19-12, eventually dropping the frame by nine points. Losing the set marked the first time UCLA had lost one in five matches.
Tied 1-1, the Bruins called to senior outside/opposite hitter élan McCall, who took matters into her own hands. Within back and forth action, McCall had four kills within the first 14 points scored by the Bruins in the set. Pulling away in the latter half of the third set, redshirt sophomore middle blocker Anna Dodson scored one of her five kills to take an 18-14 lead.
Stringing together a 9-3 run and reaching set point, the Bruins looked prime to win the frame, but the Trojans scored four unanswered points. Luckily for UCLA, the run ended with May recording another kill to accomplish a victorious set with a 25-21 score and making it 2-1 for the match.
Down 8-2 in the fourth set, it looked like the Bruins were going to be forced into a fifth set, but then the largest unanswered run of the match occurred. Six straight points, including a pair of service aces from McCall, were scored to knot up the score at 8.
Coming out of a timeout with the score 21-18 in favor of USC, May etched herself into UCLA history. Scoring a kill, her 19th of the match, the fifth-year Bruin joined said 2,000 kill club, becoming the first Bruin to do so in the rally scoring era.
The celebratory moment was cut short, however, as the Trojans took the fourth set, shifting momentum and moving the match to a fifth and match-deciding set.
It was do-or-die for the Bruins. Falling behind 14-9 in the fifth set, they needed to come up with a match-winning run, or the Trojans would take the rivalry victory on their senior night.
USC allowed one quick score, but then finished the night off for a memorable win at the Galen Center.
May finished the match with 21 kills, 19 digs, three service aces and two assists, but such leading performances will now have to translate to the NCAA tournament.
On Sunday, the NCAA will release the bracket for the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship. The announcement will be available to watch at 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU, and the Bruins are in position to earn an at-large bid if the Washington-Washington State match doesn't go their way in terms of their possible Pac-12 title hopes.