#4 UCLA Men's Volleyball (17-3, 13-3)
Opponent: #10 Ball State (14-4, 8-1)
When: 7:00 PM PST, Monday, March 7, 2016
Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
The Bruins take a break this week from MPSF action to play two nonconference foes. First up is midwest powerhouse Ball State. The Cardinals (14-4, 8-1) are ranked tenth in this week's AVCA Coaches Poll, down two spots from last week after losing on Saturday to Grand Canyon. Ball State is now second in the MIVA Conference standings, half a game behind first place Ohio State.
The Bruins seem to be playing a bit better since their loss to #3 Stanford two weeks ago. UCLA enters tonight's contest with a four game winning streak, including a pair of wins over #7 UC Santa Barbara last week.
On Friday, in the second of the Bruins' home-and-away series with the Gauchos, UCLA wasn't as sharp offensively as it had been on Wednesday, but still managed to earn a 3-set victory: 25-22, 25-15, 25-23. As a team, the Bruins hit a subpar .247, but limited the Gauchos to just .083.
Although the Bruins dominated in most statistical categories, UCLA wasn't particularly good at receiving serve. On the other hand, the Bruins' defensive intensity was outstanding, and their focus was improved from Wednesday.
It's too early to say that the Bruins are back to their best after four wins against second-rate (or worse) opponents. Comfortable wins against Cal Baptist and USC were expected, and although the Gauchos are currently ranked seventh--bizarrely, moving up two spots in the national rankings after losing a pair to UCLA--they are not a top-tier team. However, we have to wait nearly three weeks before the Bruins will be tested by a top-5 team again.
Like UC Santa Barbara, Ball State is a second-tier team. The Cardinals had an 11-game win streak snapped last week, but only one of those wins was against a top-10 team (Ohio State). Before that, Ball State was swept by both Stanford and Penn State in the first few weeks of the season.
Ball State is a very good team--good enough to contend in the MIVA Conference, but not good enough to contend in the MPSF Conference. It would be a pretty big upset if Ball State beat the Bruins in Pauley tonight.