#5 UCLA Men's Volleyball (2-0)
Opponent: #10 Penn State (1-0)
When: 4:30 PM PST, Friday, January 8, 2016
Where: Rec Hall, University Park, PA
Video: GoPSUsports Live Event
Live Stats: GameTracker
2016 Media Guide: Not Available Yet (Thanks, Dan!)
UCLA continued its fine start to the 2016 season yesterday by collecting its second road victory against a top-15 team. On the first day of the Penn State Tournament, the fifth-ranked Bruins beat #6 Ohio State 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-22, 25-22).
It was a good win for the Bruins, but made even more impressive by the fact that starting OH Jake Arnitz was given the day off and the other starting OH, JT Hatch, played only one full set. In their places, freshman Dylan Missry and junior Michael Fisher made strong contributions. Missry led the Bruins with 12 kills and registered a respectable .286 hitting percentage and Fisher was even better with 11 kills and a .579 attack percentage in his somewhat limited appearance.
Junior middle blocker Mitch Stahl had a stellar game playing in his home state in front of family and friends. Stahl added 10 kills while hitting .600. He also led both teams with 6 block assists.
Once again the Bruins utilized the seldom seen 6-0 offense with success. Hagen Smith had 32 assists (and 14 digs) and freshman Micah Ma'a had 22 assists and 11 kills. It's a fun offense to watch when it's played at such a high level, and the Bruins are certainly making it work in attack--UCLA hit an outstanding .382 for the match. Unfortunately, UCLA's defense is behind the offense right now. Considering the athleticism of Coach Speraw's squad, this group of Bruins have the ability to become a very good defensive team.
Coach Speraw has a reputation for giving all of his players opportunities to prove themselves in games. He believes in developing his bench players, not just because it makes the team stronger, but because he feels he has a responsibility to every player on the team. It's yet another reason why I have such great respect for Coach Speraw.
Of course, one of the consequences of Coach Speraw's approach is that it makes it very difficult to predict his starting lineups with a high degree of certainty. However, I think it's likely that we'll see a different set of starters tonight as Coach Speraw tests his players and experiments with different combinations.
Penn State continues to rank as one of the east coast's top volleyball programs. The Nittany Lions are 1-0 after opening their season yesterday with a 3-0 (25-22, 28-26, 29-27) win over #12 Southern Cal in the second tournament game.
In spite of Penn State's sweep, it was a very close match. The Nittany Lions relied heavily on their outside attack, with junior Chris Nugent (6'4") and redshirt sophomore Jalen Penrose (6'8") combining for about 70% of Penn State's kills. In principle, the extent of the imbalance in the Nittany Lion attack should have proved their undoing, but the Trojans didn't do a good job of defending the wide attacks.
It's been a terrific start to the season for Coach Speraw's young Bruins. With conference play beginning next week and a difficult match with second-ranked UCI slated for the start of the MPSF season, a win today against Penn State will give UCLA a lot of confidence and momentum.