#2 UCLA Men’s Volleyball (8-1)
Opponent: Princeton (2-2)
When: Sunday, January 29, 2017, 8:00 PM PT
Where: Pauley Pavilion, :os Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruins Live Audio
Video: Pac-12 Network
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
Before heading off to Provo for a crucial pair of matches against BYU this week, the Bruins play a rare midseason non-conference match tonight against the Princeton Tigers. And after taking care of business this past week with a home-and-away doubleheader sweep against #11 UC Santa Barbara, Coach Speraw may very well give several of his starters a well-deserved rest.
The second-ranked Bruins were certainly not in peak form against the Gauchos, but they were plenty good enough to claim a second straight sweep against UCSB on Friday night at the Thunderdome. The sets scores (25-22, 25-22, 25-17) were a little closer than they had been when UCLA swept UCSB on Wednesday, but it was a comfortable victory nevertheless.
Friday's win was keyed by UCLA's high-powered attack. The Bruins hit a blistering .420 for the match and served up half a dozen aces. Unfortunately, UCLA's defense wasn't as solid as it had been two days earlier, which allowed the Gauchos to hang around in the match.
Freshman Daenen Gyimah continues to dominate in attack. On Friday, Gyimah added another dozen kills to his season total. Outside attackers Jake Arnitz (11 kills) and JT Hatch (10 kills) also reached double digits in kills. Although MB Mitch Stahl had a rare off-night in attack, he notched 5 aces from the service line, moving him into second place in rally-scoring era career aces at UCLA.
Libero Jackson Bantle led the Bruins with 8 digs, and setters Hagen Smith (18 assists) and Micah Ma'a (21 assists) contributed 7 and 6 digs, respectively.
As good as the two wins against the Gauchos were, the big news in the MPSF this week came out of Provo when seventh-ranked UCI knocked off third-ranked BYU in the opening match of the homestand. Given how difficult it is to beat the Cougars at home, the upset win by the Anteaters puts the Bruins in great position heading into their battle with BYU this week.
Tonight's contest with the Tigers should be a good opportunity for Coach Speraw to give playing time to some key backups. Christian Hessenauer in particular seems a likely candidate for extended playing time tonight, and I think it's likely that either Michael Fisher or Dylan Missry (or both) will see more action tonight. Coach Speraw may also opt to give either or both of his middle blockers some rest this evening, so it should be fun to see how well the UCLA bench can perform against a mid-level EIVA opponent.