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Unbeaten UCLA Men's Volleyball Hosts Winless USC

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After opening the season with six straight road games, the top-ranked Bruins finally play their first match of 2016 in Pauley Pavilion. UCLA's opponent this afternoon is the Trojans, who come to Westwood in search of their first win of the year.

UCLAMVB

#1 UCLA Men's Volleyball (6-0, 3-0)

Opponent: #15 Southern Cal (0-5, 0-3)

When: 3:00 PM PST, Saturday, January 23, 2016

Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA

AudioBruin Audio

Video: Pac-12 Networks

Live StatsUCLA StatBroadcast

Official Match PreviewMatch Notes

2016 Media Guide: Not Available Yet (Thanks, Dan!)

After six straight road games to start the season, including three matches against top-10 teams, the #1 Bruins (6-0, 3-0) finally have a home game. Undefeated UCLA hosts winless Southern Cal (0-5, 0-3) today in a mid-afternoon game at Pauley Pavilion.

To be accurate, the Bruins will play four home games in less than a week, including a showdown on Wednesday with #2 Long Beach State. However, it's unlikely that the 49ers will still be the second-ranked team in the nation next week after BYU beat Long Beach yesterday. Even so, Long Beach remains one of the top-5 teams in the nation.

The same can't be said of #15 Southern Cal. The Trojans stumbled out of the blocks, losing in straight sets to Penn State and Ohio State to open the season, and then falling to Cal State Northridge (3-1), Long Beach State (3-1), and UC Santa Barbara (3-1) to open the MPSF season. Since their conference losses have come at the hands of three strong MPSF foes, the Trojans should be able to recover and qualify for the MPSF Tournament, but it has not been a good debut for first year Head Coach Jeff Nygaard.

Junior OH Lucas Yoder is a quality attacker, but the Trojans are not the same team without junior MB Andy Benesh on the court. Benesh has struggled with a back injury in 2016, so his availability is questionable.

Given the transition to a new coach, the injury to one of the Trojans' best players, and the difficulty of their first half dozen games, it's not surprising that USC is below .500. What is surprising is how poor the Trojans have played, winning just 3 of their 18 sets. The Bruins will be anxious to keep that trend going today.

The Bruins swept Cal Baptist on Wednesday (27-25, 25-21, 25-12), but they didn't dominate. The Lancers actually outhit the Bruins .279 to .262, but were undone by their poor serving: 0 aces and 18 errors. The Bruins, on the other hand, were terrific again from the service line with nearly as many aces (11) as errors (13). Freshman Micah Ma'a led UCLA with 3 aces, and Michael Fisher, Mitch Stahl, and Jackson Bantle each added a pair of aces.

Redshirt sophomore MB Oliver Martin led the UCLA attack with an errorless seven kills. Junior MB Mitch Stahl added seven kills of his own, while sophomore OH Jake Arnitz and Micah Ma'a notched 6 kills apiece.

Coach Speraw continues to employ a 6-0 system, and setters Hagen Smith and Ma'a have adapted quickly to the demands on them. Against the Lancers, Ma'a had 17 assists and 8 digs, and Smith had 16 assists and 5 digs.

Although the Trojans are struggling at the moment, the Bruins will have to play substantially better today than they did against Cal Baptist to keep USC winless. UCLA can't count on the Trojans to help out with 18 service errors or 11 receiving errors. Southern Cal may be in a skid, but the Trojans aren't a bad team. If the Bruins play as they did in their first five games of the season, they'll win comfortably today. If they instead play as they did on Wednesday against Cal Baptist, they'll have their hands full against a wounded Southern Cal side.

Go BRUINS! BeatSC!