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UCLA's Postseason Prospects Wane with Loss to Hawai'i

The Bruins' chances of securing an at large bid to the 2017 NCAA Tournament probably vanished yesterday when they fell to Hawai'i, 3-1.


#6 UCLA Men’s Volleyball (17-8, 10-7)

Opponent: #4 Hawai’i (23-4, 13-4)

When: Saturday, April 8, 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

Official Match Preview

UCLA concludes its 2017 regular season today with its second game of the weekend against #4 Hawai'i. For seniors Jackson Bantle, Michael Fisher, Mitch Stahl, and Hagen Smith, it will be their final Bruin home game.

Yesterday's 3-1 loss to the Rainbow Warriors locks the Bruins into fifth place in the MPSF and secures for them the fifth seed in the next week's MPSF Tournament. UCLA will play fourth-seeded UC Irvine in a first-round contest next Saturday.

The loss to Hawai'i yesterday costs the Bruins more than a chance to catch the Anteaters and the Rainbow Warriors in the MPSF standings and the opportunity to host a postseason game. It also means that UCLA is now extremely unlikely to receive serious consideration for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, and that any remaining pathway for the Bruins to qualify for the NCAA Tournament will almost certainly require an MPSF Tournament victory.

There was an early moment of hope in yesterday's match when the Bruins captured the first set, 28-26, courtesy of an outstanding individual performance by Jake Arnitz. Those hopes faded quickly, however, as UCLA played progressively worse with each set. The Rainbow Warriors claimed the following three sets 25-23, 25-21, 25-18 and the match, thereby snuffing out UCLA's hope of nipping Hawai'i and UC Irvine at the MPSF regular season finish line.

Arnitz was the only Bruin who really distinguished himself in the loss. He notched 20 kills while hitting a sizzling .395.

As I noted in yesterday's match preview, the Bruins have struggled for consistency in the past couple of weeks, and it's impossible to uncouple the inconsistent play from the constant reshuffling of UCLA's lineup. That's not to say that there weren't valid reasons for all of Coach Speraw's decisions with regards to personnel and tactics, but it's difficult to achieve consistency in performance with new players in new roles each week.

In some respects, it's a fitting end to the rollercoaster ride that was the 2017 regular season. From the heights of January to the injury-riddled lows of February to the uncertain wobbles of the final six weeks, there's been little predictable about the way the Bruins' 2017 campaign has played out.

If I were to try to describe UCLA's regular season in a single word, it would probably be "disappointing." If the Bruins hadn't been hit so hard by injuries, I'd like to think that UCLA would be heading into Senior Day with better prospects for an extended postseason. But as things now stand, the results of UCLA's Senior Day battle with Hawai'i probably won't carry any consequences for the postseason.

For what it's worth, the Pac-12 Networks has a short post-match interview with Hagen Smith.

As Hagen notes, tonight's match is about building momentum heading into postseason play. Although it seems like a tremendous long shot at this point, UCLA can still qualify for the NCAA Tournament by capturing the MPSF Tournament title. It would probably require the Bruins to beat three incredibly tough conference foes (#5 UC Irvine, #3 BYU, and #1 Long Beach State) in consecutive matches, but it's the one remaining sliver of hope that the Bruins have. Given the highs and lows of UCLA's unexpected season, who's to say that the Bruins might not have a final surprise in store?