When: Wednesday, February 12, 7 PM PST
Where: Pauley Pavilion
Listen: Bruin Audio
Watch: Pac-12 Network
After sweeping the #5 Trojans on Sunday, the Bruins (10-2, 7-1) return home to battle #6 Long Beach State (6-3, 5-3). The second-ranked Bruins dropped just one place in the national rankings after an ugly away loss to #3 Pepperdine a week ago. Fortunately the passing problems that plagued the Bruins against Pepperdine didn't return for the match against Southern Cal, and as a result, the UCLA attack was once again in high gear. The Bruins will need the same sound, fundamental play against a strong Long Beach State squad that was a preseason favorite to win the MPSF conference title.
The 49ers are efficient in attack. National Player of the Year candidate Taylor Crabb leads the 49ers' attack, hitting an impressive 0.356 from the outside and averaging nearly 5 kills/set. The Long Beach State offense begins and ends with Crabb; if he falters, the 49ers struggle to compensate, so it's imperative for the Bruins to organize their blocking schemes to slow him down. The 49ers also block reasonably well, which means that UCLA's passing will have to be good enough to give setter Michael Beals the option of a middle attack. Fortunately, Long Beach State is not an exceptional serving team, and that should give UCLA the opportunity to produce a good first ball for Beals so that he can employ various attacking options.
Since 8 of the 10 top-ranked teams are in the MPSF, UCLA rarely gets a breather from facing stiff competition. Tonight will be yet another tough test of UCLA's title credentials. Let's hope they Bruins can bring the same focus and energy to this match that they brought to the contest against Southern Cal.
The official preview is here.