Tonight, UCLA heads to Utah for an MPSF showdown with the #5 BYU Cougars. Currently, the Cougars are atop the MPSF Volleyball standings despite the fact that #3 UCLA is ranked ahead of them. That’s because BYU is undefeated in MPSF play while UCLA picked up a loss against Pepperdine last week. A Bruin win tonight would even the teams out in the loss column and move UCLA to just a half game behind the Cougars.
When we last checked in on men’s volleyball, the team was looking to bounce back from a three-match losing streak. Thursday night, they travelled to Palo Alto and beat Stanford in four sets, 25-12, 25-16, 18-25, 25-21. It was just what the Bruins needed before heading to Provo for tonight’s match against BYU.
In front of an overwhelming crowd of 307, UCLA started the match by winning the first five points of the first set and eight of the first ten and fourteen of the first eighteen. Soon, the Bruins had a 17-7 lead. After Stanford scored twice, the Bruins closed out the first set by taking eight of the final eleven points.
The second set started out tougher. While the Bruins scored three of the first four points, a 5-1 run by the Cardinal gave Stanford a 6-4 lead. After the teams split the next six points, UCLA went on a 6-0 run to retake the lead, 13-9. The Bruins didn’t look back. With the score UCLA, 18, Stanford, 15, the Bruins closed out the second set with a 7-1 run.
The third set was all Stanford. The Cardinal jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead. While the Bruins would close the gap to just one point three times early in the set, that was as close as UCLA would get as they weren’t able to ever to the set back up. Stanford went on to win the third set, 25-18.
As much as the third set belonged to the Cardinal, the fourth belonged to the Bruins. UCLA started the set on a 6-2 run. 2-1 was as close as Stanford got. Eventually, the Bruins were up 23-15. That’s when the Cardinal tried to mount a furious late comeback with a 6-1 run to make it 24-21, but Christian Hessenauer closed the set and the match out for the Bruins.
It was fitting because Hessenauer led the Bruins with 16 kills for the match while Micah Ma’a had 30 assists and 8 digs. Overall, UCLA hit .319 for the match, but struggled in the second and third sets when they hit .217 and .179, respectively.
If the Bruins want to win tonight, they are going to have to make fewer attack errors and force BYU to kill the ball more than Stanford could.
This is your UCLA Bruins vs. BYU Cougars men’s volleyball open thread.