On Saturday, UCLA travelled down the 405 Freeway to play #1 Long Beach State and the Bruins lost on the road in four sets, 25-23, 15-25, 19-25, 21-25. Tonight, the teams meet again, but, this time, they meet in Westwood.
While Saturday night’s match was important, tonight’s match may be even more important. On Saturday, UCLA became only the second team this year to win a set against the 49ers, but moral victories are still losses. Tonight, the Bruins need to take advantage of the home crowd to prove that they can actually beat Long Beach State.
Saturday’s match started off all right for the Bruins. UCLA won the first set, 25-23, after all, and, no, it wasn’t easy. The teams battled it out all the way and were tied 19-19. UCLA won six of the final ten points to come away with a 25-23 win. The Bruins finished the first set with a 0.293 hitting percentage while holding the 49ers to a 0.207 hitting percentage.
Unfortunately, the rest of the match didn’t end as well for UCLA. The Bruins finished the second set with a negative hitting percentage (-0.032) while Long Beach State improved to 0.409. UCLA even got out to a 9-8 lead early in the set, but the 49ers went on a 10-2 run to take an 18-11. After UCLA took three of the next five points, the 49ers finished the set by scoring five of the final six points and winning the set, 25-15.
The Bruins played better in the third set. They got their hitting percentage back up near their first set hitting percentage with a 0.273, but, unfortunately, Long Beach State improved theirs to 0.500. The teams split the first twenty points, but the 49ers won six of the next eight points to jump ahead 16-12. UCLA would get as close as two points down twice at 17-15 and again at 18-16, but, again, Long Beach State closed the set strong. This time, they won seven of the final ten points to take the set 25-19.
The final set was a little bit streaky. With the score tied 4-4, Long Beach State went on a 7-3 run that the Bruins responded to with a 5-0 run of their own to take a 12-11 lead. The teams battled over the next six points, splitting them and giving UCLA a 15-14 lead. The Bruins stretched their lead to 18-15, but an 8-0 run put LBSU back in front, 23-18. While UCLA was able to fight off two match points, a service error on the third finished things off for the 49ers.
Now, I don’t know if UCLA will be able to win tonight’s match or not. Long Beach State is clearly the best team the Bruins have played all season and it explains why the 49ers are number one in the country, but UCLA is still ranked number two and playing number one at home should give the Bruins a fighting chance and, possibly, preview the National Championship match, which, by the way, will be played at Pauley Pavilion this Spring.