Last Saturday, the Bruins had their toughest test of the season to date when they faced Ohio State at home. And, it was a really tough match. Not only did it take UCLA a full five sets to beat the Buckeyes, the final three sets were all so close that each set required extra points to win by two.
In the first set, UCLA jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but Ohio State came back to tie the set at 8-8. But the Bruins went on an 11-3 run to take a commanding 19-11 lead and the Bruins would take the first set, 25-18.
The Buckeyes looked to come back in the second set, but the teams battled hard and neither team led by more than a point until Ohio State took a 17-15 lead. After the teams split the next four points, the Buckeyes managed to open up a three-point lead and they were able to make it stick and won set 2, 25-22.
Set three was an even tighter battle which went back and forth and, after 48 points, the teams were tied 24-24. Following a Micah Ma’a attack error, Ohio State had a 25-24 lead, but they couldn’t finish the set. UCLA rallied for three straight points on an Ohio State service error and two attack errors as the Bruins took set three, 27-25.
The fourth set had almost an identical finish but in reverse. This time, the teams battled to a 23-23 tie when UCLA got their first match point, but two service errors and an attack error by the Bruins let the Buckeyes win the set, 26-24, and force a fifth and deciding set.
If the fifth set would have been played to 25, I think this one would have been nearly identical to sets three and four, but fifth sets are played to just 15. It didn’t keep the teams from fighting back and forth. It was tied 13-13 after 26 points when Ohio State got their first, and only, match point on a Nicolas Szerszen kill. It didn’t matter. UCLA rallied for three straight points to win the set, 16-14, and the match, 3-2. The result also earned Bruin coach John Speraw his 300th career win.
Christian Hessenauer led the Bruins with 19 kills and 13 digs while Micah Ma’a led the team in assists with 47. Hessenauer’s performance against Ohio State as well as against Penn State earned him the UCLA/Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week. JT Hatch added 16 kills against the Buckeyes while Garland Peed and Dylan Missry had 12 and 10 digs, respectively.
While last weekend’s match against Ohio State was tough, this weekend looks to be even tougher. That’s because UCLA is on the road for this weekend’s pair of matches against the #3 Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors. Like the Bruins, Hawai’i is still undefeated this season and will be tough to beat at home. If the Bruins can go into Honolulu and steal both matches, it may be enough for UCLA to take over the top spot in next week’s rankings. But, even a split will be tough.
This is your UCLA Men’s Volleyball at Hawai’i open thread.