#1 UCLA Men's Volleyball (21-4, 15-4)
Opponent: #3 BYU (20-3, 16-3)
When: 7:00 PM PST, Saturday, April 2, 2016
Where: John Wooden Center, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: UCLA Live Stream
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
BYU delivered a serious blow to UCLA's MPSF regular season title aspiration when the Cougars defeated the Bruins 3-1 (25-17, 19-25, 27-25, 25-13) last night. Unless UCLA can bounce back tonight to avenge yesterday's loss, the Bruins will have to settle for a something less than a first place finish in 2016.
As we've seen too many times this season, the Bruins started slowly. It's a bad habit, and against good teams, it's dangerous. And make no mistake about it, BYU is a very good team as they proved within the first minutes of the match. Coach Speraw was forced to call timeout early in the first set when the Cougars built a quick 8-3 lead. The Bruins chipped away at the lead and pulled within 2 points at 16-14, but UCLA then reverted to losing points in twos and threes which allowed BYU to win the opening set comfortably at 25-17.
After dropping the first set , the Bruins fought back to even the match. A pair of hitting errors by BYU's Ben Patch helped the Bruins to build a 14-10 lead before BYU was forced to call timeout. The break didn't slow down UCLA's surge, with the Bruins extending the lead to 20-12 before winning the second set 25-19.
As is often the case in volleyball matches, the third set proved to be crucial. It was close from start to finish, with neither team able to build more than a two point lead. BYU got to 20 first, but the Bruins knotted the score at 20 on a kill by Jake Arnitz and an ace by JT Hatch. Arnitz served for the set at 24-23 but couldn't find the court with his serve. With BYU serving for the set at 25-24, an Oliver Martin kill pulled UCLA even again.
But that was the last of the Bruins' resistance in the third set. The Cougars took the third set when Micah Ma'a's attack was stuffed by Price Jarman and Brendan Sander.
Coach Speraw inserted Mitch Stahl into the lineup for the start of the fourth set, but the Bruins couldn't find a way back into the match. In fact, in the final stretch of the fourth set, UCLA collapsed to give the Cougars an all-too-easy 25-13 victory.
Jake Arnitz led the Bruins in kills with 11, but hit just .238. JT Hatch and Micah Ma'a contributed 9 kills apiece, but they also combined for 13 errors in attack. Oliver Martin was the most efficient of UCLA's attackers; his .500 hitting percentage was the highest among the starters, but his opportunities were limited.
UCLA's serving was one of the few bright spots. The Bruins notched 8 aces, 3 of which came from freshman sensation Ma'a.
As a result of yesterday's loss, the Bruins' margin for error in chasing the conference title is essentially zero. They must win tonight, and in all likelihood, they need to beat Stanford and Pepperdine next week.
Mitch Stahl is available to start tonight, but it's not clear if Coach Speraw will choose to start him or even if he will make much of a difference. The Bruins were a clear second best last night in nearly every facet of the game. In particular, unless the Bruins can find a way to slow down BYU's attack tonight, UCLA may have to win the conference tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.