UCLA and Pepperdine met twice during the regular season; in both matches, the Bruins swept the Waves. In the third meeting between the teams, the result was no different as the Bruins stymied the #5 Waves' attack to win the match in straight sets, 25-19, 25-18, 25-18. The Bruins now advance to the MPSF tournament semifinals to face #1 BYU in Provo on Thursday.
The Bruins dominated the match from start to finish. One indicator of their complete dominance is the fact that for the entire match, there was a single lead change which occurred in the third set when the Waves opened with a short-lived 2-1 lead.
UCLA began the match by attacking through the middle, with Trent Kersten picking up three early kills. Although UCLA's service game was not at its best, several Bruins--notably Spencer Rowe and Connor Bannan--were effective in putting Pepperdine under pressure, which limited the attacking options for the Waves' first team All-MPSF setter Matt West. The Bruins improving defense also frustrated the Waves. UCLA recorded 30 digs (compared to Pepperdine's 12) and 9 blocks, with Spencer Rowe collecting 7 block assists. As a result, Pepperdine's attack percentage for the match was just 0.143, well below their season average of 0.300.
Setter Connor Bannan did a good job directing an efficient UCLA attack. The Bruins hitting percentage for the match was 0.386, well above their season average of 0.320. Dane Worley led UCLA's hitters with 13 kills, while Gonzalo Quiroga and Robart Page chipped in with 9 kills apiece. Worley's assortment of off-speed winners and spikes drilled off or past the Pepperdine block once again demonstrated his value to UCLA's attack.
In the other quarterfinal matches, all of the top seeds advanced, although both UCI and BYU struggled to put away their opponents. As a consequence, the Bruins will now have to win the MPSF conference tournament to qualify for the NCAA tournament. As difficult as that task will be, the Bruins are playing well enough right now to make it happen.