#1 UCLA Men's Volleyball (9-0, 5-0)
Opponent: #12 Cal State Northridge (7-1, 2-1)
When: 7:00 PM PST, Friday, January 29, 2016
Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Audio
Video: UCLA Live Stream
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
Official Match Preview | Match Notes (None available)
Tonight's match against 12th-ranked Cal State Northridge probably seems anticlimactic after the showdown between #1 UCLA and #2 Long Beach State on Wednesday night, a match that the Bruins won 3-2 (23-25, 22-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-13) after losing the first two sets. The drama of UCLA's comeback and the magnitude of the victory overshadowed a significant result elsewhere in southern California--Cal State Northridge suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of UC Santa Barbara.
The Matadors loss leaves three teams with just one conference loss chasing unbeaten UCLA: Stanford, UCSB and CSUN. With UCSB squaring off against Long Beach State tonight, two of those three teams are likely to pick up a second loss this evening.
But before I preview tonight's match, let's look back at UCLA's big win against the 49ers.
There were several Bruins who turned in terrific performances, but the most impressive part of UCLA's performance was the Bruins' poise and self-confidence in rallying from a two-set deficit. In spite of a few questionable calls that contributed to putting UCLA in a hole, the Bruins stayed focused on the task and fought back to claim a very important win.
Sophomore Jake Arnitz turned in perhaps his finest performance as a Bruin on Wednesday. He led UCLA with 17 kills while hitting a fantastic .429. He also collected 13 digs and 4 big blocks, proving that he's invaluable in defense too.
As usual, junior Mitch Stahl produced a solid display with 8 kills and 5 blocks. Freshman Micah Ma'a continues to impress in his role as setter/hitter in Coach Speraw's 6-0 offense. Ma'a notched 13 kills, 30 assists, and 8 digs. Hagen Smith also had a big night as a setter/hitter in the 6-0 system. Smith chipped in with 9 kills, 25 assists and 11 digs.
Although JT Hatch didn't have one of his better games, it was good to see him back in the starting lineup. If he can return to the form he was in last season, UCLA's outside attack will take a big step forward.
The Matadors are an attack-minded team. They are hitting .328 in conference play, but at the same time allowing their opponents to hit .300. When you consider the fact that none of those opponents are currently ranked in the top-10, it's not surprising that CSUN stumbled against UCSB.
The key Northridge player to watch tonight is freshman Dimitar Kalchev from Bulgaria. He's a solid OH and is the Matador's biggest serving threat. Junior OH Jakub Ciesla is the other main outside threat for CSUN; he leads the Matadors with a 4.1 kills/set average.
Redshirt freshman Eric Chance is the player to watch in the middle. So far this season, he's been very CSUN's most efficient hitter and most effective blocker.
Even though the Matador's have made a strong start to the 2016 season, they are not likely to contend for the MPSF title. Tonight's match should be relatively straightforward for the Bruins. However, this is UCLA's fourth game in less than a week, so the Bruins may be fatigued as well as being distracted by midterms. If Coach Speraw can get his team to focus from the start, the Bruins should be able to wrap up another victory.