#2 UCLA Men’s Volleyball (6-1, 4-0)
Opponent: #11 UC Santa Barbara (6-1, 3-1)
When: Wednesday, January 25, 2017, 7:30 PM PT
Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruins Live Audio
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
There are very few easy matches in the MPSF. That proved to be the case last week when the Bruins (6-1, 4-0) needed four sets to vanquish the Trojans, and it will likely be proven true tonight against the Gauchos (6-1, 3-1).
Although UCLA extended its winning streak to four games with its four set victory over Southern Cal (25-20, 23-25, 25-20, 25-22), the Bruins' wobble in the second set let the Trojans back into the match. The Bruins scrambled to retake the lead in set 3, but didn't really dominate the action after the first set.
Junior OH Jake Arnitz had a fantastic night in attack with 20 kills, but his three errors in service reception are a blot on an otherwise outstanding performance. Senior MB Mitch Stahl put up impressive numbers too; his 8 block assists and 3 aces led both teams. The third standout for the Bruins was libero Jackson Bantle who registered 14 digs.
UCLA Athletics has a few highlights from the victory over Southern Cal
and an postmatch interview with Jake Arnitz:
The Bruins' victory extended their winning streak to four games, kept them perfect in conference play, and left them in first place in the MPSF--a full game ahead of BYU.
Although UC Santa Barbara isn't currently ranked in the AVCA top-10, the Gauchos are a tough opponent. UCSB enters tonight's match with a three game winning streak, with victories over UC San Diego, Southern Cal, and Cal Baptist. Of course, those are probably the weakest three teams in the conference this season. Add to that the fact that the Gauchos played a soft non-conference schedule to begin the 2017 season, and then dropped the MPSF opener to #7 UC Irvine, and you can understand why the Gauchos aren't currently ranked in the top-10. Still, UCSB is fourth nationally in hitting percentage (.342) and 11th in opponent hitting percentage (.210), so the Bruins can't afford lapses in focus.
Redshirt senior OH Jacob Delson is the player that UCLA has to keep in check tonight. Delson is the number one attacking option for the Gauchos, averaging 4.22 kills per set while hitting .364. Keep an eye on freshman MB Keenan Sanders as well; he was a highly regarded prospect and has made a bright start to his collegiate career.
Tonight's match is part of a southland doubleheader of sorts. On Friday, the Bruins will travel up the coast for a rematch with the Gauchos. Then, on Sunday, UCLA will play host to Princeton before next week's trip to Provo for what may well prove to be a conference title-deciding two-game set against BYU. Given how tight the MPSF title race is likely to be, the Bruins certainly can't afford to drop a match on the way to Provo.