#6 UCLA Men’s Volleyball (13-7)
Opponent: Sacred Heart (12-3)
When: Friday, March 17, 2017, 7:00 PM PT
Where: John Wooden Center, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Streaming Video: UCLA Live Stream
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
Celebrate St. Patty's Day with your favorite team tonight in the JWC. Every fan wearing green will receive a free UCLA Jello mold #GoBruins pic.twitter.com/epdkb40xI2— UCLA M. Volleyball (@UCLAMVB) March 17, 2017
If you follow UCLA Men's Volleyball, you know that the season has careened off course when the Bruins' NCAA Tournament hopes could very well hinge on finishing the regular season with a nine-game winning streak.
UCLA is three games into that nine-game winning streak. Tonight's contest against Sacred Heart represents one of the lowest remaining hurdles on the way to nine straight wins, but it's still a hurdle that the Bruins need to clear.
UCLA's last opponent--Harvard--presented a similar challenge, and the Bruins earned a relatively straightforward 3-0 (25-11, 25-17, 25-17) victory. The Bruins hit an impressive .560 for the match while holding Harvard to .294. However, Harvard's attack efficiency improved throughout the match, which shows that UCLA's concentration waned as the match progressed. That has to change if the Bruins are going to win nine in a row.
The Bruins' revival has been accompanied by a switch from a 6-2 to a 5-1. It's not fair to say that the 5-1 is responsible for UCLA's recent success, but the Bruins do seem to be achieving more consistency with a single setter. WIth Micah Ma'a still out due to injury, UCLA will undoubtedly be running a 5-1 again tonight.
The main beneficiary of the switch to a 5-1 is opposite Christian Hessenauer. Against the Crimson, Hessenauer led UCLA in kills (9) and digs (7). Mitch Stahl saw limited action as he works his way back after his second injury of the season, but he still managed to lead the Bruins in aces with 3.
In fact, it was the Bruins' outstanding serving that, more than anything else, stood out in their sweep of Harvard. UCLA easily won the battle from the service line, tallying 13 aces for the match.
Considering the fact that Sacred Heart barely edged Harvard 3-2 in the Pioneer's most recent match, UCLA should be able to sweep Sacred Heart tonight. But if the Bruins are going to make a push for post-season qualification, tonight's match needs to be about more than just winning; the Bruins have to keep improving, otherwise a win tonight will be a forgotten piece of a lost season.