#4 UCLA Men's Volleyball (14-3, 10-3)
Opponent: Southern Cal (3-12, 3-10)
When: 8:00 PM PST, Saturday, February 27, 2016
Where: Galen Center, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
UCLA is in the unenviable position of desperately needing wins to stay in touch with the MPSF Conference leaders. The Bruins aren't actually very far out of first place--they currently have sole possession of fourth place, though they're just one game out of first. Unfortunately, with three teams to catch, it will take more than a slip-up by one of the league leaders for the Bruins to claim a share of the conference lead.
In the MPSF, winning the regular season conference title is a big deal. The winning team gets home court advantage throughout the conference tournament, and that can be a very significant advantage for teams like BYU and Hawai'i. Furthermore, with just two at-large bids available in the men's volleyball NCAA Tournament, winning the MPSF regular season title almost guarantees an invitation.
The Bruins took care of business in their first match of the week when they swept Cal Baptist. Set scores were 25-18, 25-19, 25-13.
It's fair to say that the Bruins outplayed the Lancers in all aspects of the game. UCLA outhit the Lancers .333 to .066, out-aced them nine to one, and out-blocked them 12.5 to 7. It was strong performance by the Bruins after they'd suffered a tough loss to Stanford just three days earlier.
Sophomores JT Hatch and Jake Arnitz led UCLA in kills with 9 apiece. Once again, the Bruins didn't run much of their offense through the middle--Mitch Stahl and Oliver Martin had just 13 attacks and 7 kills between the two of them.
Micah Ma'a had another fine all-around performance with four kills, 16 assists, two aces, seven digs and five block assists to go along with a solo block.
Although the Trojans are only half a game ahead of Cal Baptist in the standings, they are a much more dangerous team. Of course the Bruins know this from personal experience: five weeks ago, the Trojans really pushed the Bruins at the outset of their match. Ultimately UCLA prevailed 27-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-19, but the first two sets were very competitive.
Tonight's match may prove to be an even bigger challenge since tonight's rematch will be played in the Galen Center. However, the Trojans put up very little resistance on Wednesday against UC Santa Barbara, with the Gauchos earning a relatively easy sweep.
If the Bruins get a good start tonight against the Trojans, they should be able to enjoy a relatively short match against their crosstown rivals. On the other hand, if the Bruins ease their way into the match, the Bruins will probably have a long and nervous night.
Go BRUINS! Beat SC!