The ninth-seeded Bruins swept Penn State on Friday in the regional semifinals to end the four-time, defending champions’ 26-match winning streak. Set scores were 25-20, 25-22, 25-21.
The Bruins improve to 27-6 on the season and advance to their first NCAA regional final since 2007. The Nittany Lions have participated in every NCAA postseason event since 1981, but are 1-5 in tournament play against UCLA.
Junior Rachel Kidder hit .355 for the match, while Reeves swung at a .474 percentage with only two errors in 19 attempts. Senior Lauren Van Orden recorded 43 assists and eight digs and senior Lainey Gera added 15 digs. Junior Tabi Love posted seven kills and sophomore Mariana Aquino notched five kills and three blocks. The Bruins hit .310 for the contest.
The Nittany Lions had a variety of three-point advantages in the early going of the first set, leading 4-1, 9-6, 10-7, 11-8 and 12-9. The Bruins came back with three in a row on back-to-back kills by Kidder and a Penn State attack error to tie things at 12. The Nittany Lions sided out the next point, but four straight by the Bruins on a PSU service error, a pair of combo blocks from Aquino and Reeves and a Reeves kill put UCLA up by three at 16-13.
Still up 17-15, UCLA scored four of five to record a set-best lead of five at 21-16. Kidder, Reeves and freshman Zoë Nightingale each had kills, while Penn State also had an attack error. Up 24-20 and with a bunch of set points, a kill from junior Bojana Todorovic finished off a 25-20 win. Kidder had six kills and no errors in nine attempts in the opening set, Todorovic added three kills and Reeves notched three kills, two blocks and four digs. Gera added six digs, while Van Orden posted five with 15 assists. The Bruins out-hit the Nittany Lions .406 to .267.
The Bruins never trailed in the second set to take a 2-0 lead into intermission. Tied at three, the Bruins scored five of six to take an 8-4 edge. Back-to-back kills by Love made it 5-3, and after a PSU sideout, two Nittany Lion attack errors with a Reeves kill in between put UCLA up by four. Penn State got to within one at 11-10, but UCLA had another 5-1 run to take a set-best lead of five at 16-11. Aquino, Love and Reeves had kills, Kidder added an ace and Penn State committed an error.
The Nittany Lions charged back with five straight to tie the set at 16. After a pair of sideouts made it 17-all, the Bruins scored five in a row to take a 22-17 lead. Reeves had three kills during the run, Aquino added another and Penn State had a service error. The Nittany Lions made things interesting with a 4-1 run to cut it to 23-21, but a service error gave the Bruins three set points. On the second set point, Kidder had a kill to conclude a 25-22 victory. Reeves paced the Bruins with five kills in the second, Aquino added four and Love posted three. Gera recorded six digs, as the Bruins were out-hit in the set .257 to .222.
Penn State scored the first point of the third set, but UCLA rallied with eight in a row. Two Kidder kills, a Van Orden dump and a Nittany Lion attack error made it 4-1. That was followed by a combo block from Nightingale and Van Orden, a Reeves ace, a Kidder/Nightingale combo roof and a PSU attack error to make it 8-1. The Nittany Lions started to come back and got to within a pair at 14-12, but that was as close as the four-time defending champions would get the rest of the way.
UCLA scored five of six on two kills by Love, a Kidder kill, a Nightingale solo block and a PSU attack error to take a 19-13 lead. With the score 22-15, the Nittany Lions netted four straight to cut their deficit to three at 22-19. But the teams traded sideouts for the next five points, as a Kidder kill wrapped up a 25-21 victory. Kidder had seven kills in the third set, Love added four and Reeves recorded three with five digs. The Bruins out-hit the Nittany Lions .312 to .212.
Congrats to UCLA as they move on in the post-season.