It’s starting to look like a very special year for the UCLA Men’s Volleyball team. That’s because the Bruins won their sixth straight match on Thursday night by defeating the #9 Penn State Nittany Lions, 3-1. The win keeps the Bruins undefeated heading into today’s showdown against #3 Ohio State. The win was also the 100th career win for head coach John Speraw at UCLA.
UCLA came out strong in the first set when Dylan Missry started things off with an ace serve. Penn State took the next two points, though, to take a 2-1 lead which would be their only lead of the the set. A 4-0 run by the Bruins got them the lead back and made it 5-2.
The teams battled a little bit but, with the score 7-5, the Bruins began a 6-1 run to take a commanding 13-6 lead. The teams would battle over the next sixteen points with each team taking eight of them to make it 21-14, Bruins. After Penn State closed the gap to six, UCLA shut the door by winning the final four points of the set to earn a 25-15 win.
But the Nittany Lions came roaring back in set two. With the score tied 3-3 after six points, Penn State scored five of the next seven points to take an 8-5 lead. UCLA would close the gap to just one at 12-11, but that was as close as the Bruins would get as Penn State would bounce back with an 8-3 run, giving them a 20-14 lead. While the teams would split the next eight points, UCLA just wasn’t able to get back in the set and Penn State won it 25-19.
In the third set, the teams battled throughout the first half of the set and split the first twenty-four points. After an attack error by JT Hatch, Penn State would take a 13-12 lead. But it was a brief lead as the Bruins would go on an 8-3 run to take a 20-16 lead. The teams would battle again and split the next eight points which gave UCLA a set point. A kill by Oliver Martin would close out the set to give UCLA a 2-1 lead after three sets.
The teams battled early in the fourth set, splitting the first sixteen points. Consecutive 4-1 runs by each team made it 13-13. Penn State scored the next two points to take a 15-12 lead, but UCLA came right back to tie the set. A UCLA service error gave the Nittany Lions a 16-15 edge. But the Bruins won seven of the next ten points to take a 22-19 lead.
Like so much of the rest of the match, Penn State battled back by scoring the next two points closed UCLA’s lead to one. Oliver Martin took over for the Bruins, killing one ball and blocking another to give UCLA their first match point. Penn State was able to score the next point to make it 24-22 but a service error won the set and the match for UCLA, 25-22.
Hatch and Christian Hessenauer led the Bruins with 11 kills each. Hatch also led the team, along with Garland Peed, in digs with 7 each. Micah Ma’a recorded 42 assists for the match.
If Thursday night’s match seems like a battle, it was. Without a doubt, it was one of UCLA’s toughest matches so far this season, but today’s match looks to be even tougher. While Ohio State does not come into today’s match undefeated, their lone loss was to #1 BYU in five sets. They also defeated Southern Cal, 3-1, on Thursday.
Last year, when the AVCA Showcase was played in Columbus, Ohio, UCLA lost to Ohio State 3-1. So, the Bruins will be looking for revenge for last season. Will they be able to get payback this afternoon? We’ll have to see, but it certainly will be a good test for the team and it should give us a good indication of just how good this year’s team is, despite being just the seventh match of the season.