When: Saturday, March 8, 7 PM PST
Where: Pauley Pavilion
Listen: Bruin Audio
The Bruins limped home after a loss against UCSB extended the UCLA losing streak to 3. Playing without injured middle blockers Spencer Rowe and Trent Kersten, the fifth-ranked Bruins (13-6, 10-5) were swept by the seventh-ranked Gauchos (12-5, 11-5), 20-25, 19-25, 20-25. Fortunately the Bruins face an easier opponent tonight when UCSD (1-17, 0-16) visits Pauley Pavilion.
UCLA's losing streak has dropped the Bruins into fourth place in the MPSF, but the top of the standings looks a bit different after losses yesterday by BYU and Pepperdine, leaving the Bruins just half a game out of third place and one game out of second. With a match against Pepperdine coming up next, it's essential that the Bruins get back to winning ways tonight. Since the Tritons are winless in the MPSF, UCLA should have enough firepower to beat UCSD even without Rowe and Kersten.
In addition to UCLA missing its starting middle blockers, starting setter Steve O'Dell continues to sit out with an undisclosed foot injury. However libero Ian Sequeira is back after missing several games, and it's likely that he'll replace freshman libero Grant Chalmers tonight. I expect freshman setter Hagen Smith to continue to start in place of O'Dell, and reliable backup Clayton Paullin will certainly start at one middle blocker spot. Against UCSB, freshman Mitch Stahl started as the other middle blocker, which came as a surprise since Stahl hadn't played in the middle since high school. Stahl played fairly well, though, so he'll probably start in the middle again.
To his credit, Coach Speraw has taken responsibility for the Bruins' slump, and in turn, the team is making a stronger commitment to defense and focusing on offensive fundamentals. Tonight's match should see the Bruins grab an important victory and build a bit of momentum heading into a critical match against Pepperdine on Tuesday.
The official preview is here.