#2 UCLA Men’s Volleyball (1-0)
Opponent: #13 Penn State (0-0)
When: Friday, January 6, 2017, 2:00 PM PT
Where: St. John Arena, Columbus, OH
Stream: Off The Block
Live Stats: PSU GameTracker
The Bruins are starting the 2017 season much the same way they started 2016--with a three-match east coast road trip. And on Tuesday, UCLA began its 2017 campaign much the same way it started the 2016 season--with a straight set victory over a ranked opponent.
Last year, the Bruins notched a 3-0 win over eventual EIVA champion George Mason before heading to University Park for the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge against #10 Penn State and eventual national champion Ohio State. This season, the Bruins opened on Tuesday with a strong performance against #11 Loyola Chicago (25-19, 25-18,25-16) and today kickoff the 2017 edition of the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge against #13 Penn State. With a rematch against #1 set for tomorrow, #2 UCLA should be well-prepared for the rigors of what promises to be a particularly challenging MPSF season which begins next week.
Although the Bruins made quick work of the Ramblers on Tuesday, it was an impressive win nonetheless. The Ramblers may not have the talent that saw them win back-to-back NCAA championships in 2014 and 2015, but they are a quality team playing in a conference that has captured three straight national championships and is closing the gap on MPSF.
Tuesday's season opener was close until the midpoint of the first set. A series of attack errors by the Ramblers gave the Bruins a four point cushion that Loyola couldn't erase. After winning the first set, UCLA jumped out to early leads in the following two sets, dominating play at the net. The Bruins finished the match with 11 blocks to the Ramblers' two, and UCLA hit .384 for the match while the Ramblers hit just .167.
OH Jake Arnitz led the UCLA attack with 11 kills. Senior MB Mitch Stahl and OH JT Hatch each added seven kills. Micah Ma'a led the Bruins' block party with seven block assists, while Mitch Stahl chipped in with 4 block assists and 2 solo blocks.
Today's match will be the season opener for the Nittany Lions. Penn State is coming off a disappointing season in spite of the fact that it won its 18th-consecutive EIVA regular season championship in 2016. And although the Nittany Lions are projected to finish second in the EIVA this season, they return a solid group of players, including preseason Second-Team All-American outside attacker Chris Nugent. Senior MB Matt Callaway returns as well and represents a force to be reckoned with at the net, and sophomore libero Royce Clemens anchors a solid defense.
Don't be surprised to see sophomore OH Dylan Missry in the starting lineup today. Like Stahl, Missry is an east coast kid, and Coach Speraw generally makes a good effort to get his players on the court when they have a chance to play in front of family. I don't know if freshman MB Daenan Gyimah from Ontario will be given the same opportunity, but perhaps he'll be given a cameo appearance late in the match.