CORVALLIS — Oregon State volleyball has seen it time and again. Opposing teams put their defensive focus on all-Pac-12 hitter Mary-Kate Marshall.
Whether the Beavers have success or not often depends on whether one or two others step up to help carry the OSU offense.
Lila Toner filled that role as well as she could Friday night, but the Beavers didn’t quite have the all-around effort they needed as No. 20 UCLA got the three-set sweep at Gill Coliseum.
Set scores were 25-14, 25-21, 25-20.
“Every team we play, all they’re worried about is her. No one else. There’s no one else that’s a threat in their mind,” said Beavers coach Mark Barnard. “We talked a lot about that before the match … ‘hey, we’ve got to have another threat, we can’t just be relying on one person.”
Toner finished with a team-high 13 kills, one off her season high, to go with nine digs and three block assists. Marshall and Lanesha Reagan had seven kills apiece, and Marshall shared team-best honors in digs with Kayla Ellis at 13 each.
OSU setter McKenna Hollingsworth added 26 assists, four kills, six digs and one block assist.
Twice an all-tournament selection this season, Toner said she hit the ball well (.393 compared to her season average of .122). But, she added, it didn’t matter because it’s a team game. Also, she said she could have dug the ball better.
OSU (8-10, 1-6 Pac-12) discovered the frustration of hitting against a team that’s fourth in the country in digs at more than 18 per set.
Taylor Formico had 22 of 64 digs for UCLA (14-4, 5-3), which started its trip to the Beaver state with a five-set win at Oregon on Wednesday.
“It’s hard to hitters when you don’t kill the ball over and over and over again and they dig it every time,” Toner said. “You’re like, ‘what do I do?’”
The Beavers got off to a slow start to the match, as UCLA took control right away with the first five points.
The Bruins led by 10 twice before OSU eventually cut the deficit to six with four in a row. UCLA answered shortly after with six straight to help close it out.
The Beavers showed more fight and an improved effort on the block in the second set to make the Bruins work a little harder for their points.
OSU led 4-1 early but saw the visitors go ahead 15-8 with a 14-4 run.
The Beavers later closed within 22-19 on a 4-0 run that included kills by Marshall and Reagan and a Toner block. But it got no closer than that as UCLA was the stronger team down the stretch.
Oregon State made the third set a neck-and-neck battle and grabbed the momentum midway through on a 17-13 lead with the aid of strong plays by Reagan and Toner at the net and three UCLA serving errors.
But UCLA’s Torrey Van Winden showed why she’s considered one of the top freshmen in the country with two straight kills that started a 6-0 run as the Bruins took the lead for good at 21-18.
“I think we just got into our heads a lot,” Reagan said of her team’s mental struggle against a high-quality team. “UCLA is obviously a great defensive team, so it’s hard when you’re swinging hard at balls and you’re trying to put them down and they keep digging them up.”
On defense, the Beavers struggled with slowing down the Bruins’ middle hitters.
Van Winden, a 6-foot-3 hitter, had a match-high 14 kills to go with six digs and three block assists.
“We started off not great. I compare the beginning of the match to the end, where we make a mistake or two and then we really kind of close down,” Barnard said. “It takes mental toughness to be a player at the end that wants the ball and then does something with it as opposed to making a mistake with it.”