#5 UCLA Men’s Volleyball (10-4, 7-3)
Opponent: #14 Cal State Northridge (9-5, 2-5)
When: Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 7:30 PM PT
Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Streaming Video: UCLA Live Stream
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
UCLA finally ended its losing streak last week, but the Bruins five-set victory (23-25, 25-19, 21-25, 25-23, 15-7) over Pepperdine wasn't the kind of performance that would lead anyone to believe that UCLA has rediscovered the formula that had it at the top of the conference standings two weeks ago. In fact, the difference in UCLA's performance between the loss at Stanford and the win in Malibu isn't substantial; in each match, the Bruins had trouble with consistency.
Of course, the Bruins were still missing All-American Jake Arnitz, but for the second straight contest, All-American Mitch Stahl was back. Against the Waves, Stahl was exceptional, registering 11 kills, 5 blocks and an ace. And OH JT Hatch raised his game to lead the Bruin attack with 24 kills and a pair of aces. Hatch was also very active defensively, collecting a team-leading 16 digs.
Unfortunately, neither of the players trying to fill Arnitz' shoes was particularly effective, and unusually, neither freshman Daenan Gyimah nor senior Hagen Smith were effective either. Luckily, Micah Ma'a broke out of his mini-slump with a typically impressive all-around display: eight kills, 37 assists, an ace, five blocks and eight digs.
The Matadors have been a pretty unpredictable team this season. For example, just five days after an impressive sweep of Stanford, Cal State Northridge was swept by the Tritons. Most recently, the Matadors dropped a five-setter against UC Irvine, which is probably best-described as a battle between two second-tier MPSF teams. That means that tonight's match will probably prove difficult for the Bruins as they continue to struggle to adapt to the loss of Arnitz.
The Matadors are most dangerous attacking at the pins. Sophomore OH Dimitar Kalchev was a named to OfftheBlock's Freshman All-American team last season, and he's even better in 2017. He's complemented by 6'7" junior opposite Arvis Greene. CSUN runs much of their offense through those two hitters, so the Bruins will know exactly what to expect tonight.
UCLA has no margin for error now in the conference title race. This season's schedule is very favorable for BYU, and with the Cougars holding a 2 game lead in the standings over the Bruins, another UCLA loss would very probably leave the Bruins competing for third (or fourth) in the MPSF. UCLA is currently sitting in fifth place, so it's clear that a lot of things have to break the Bruins' way to climb back into the title race.
Much of that is beyond UCLA's control, though. Right now, the Bruins just need to find ways to win.