Tonight, the UCLA men’s volleyball team welcomes Long Beach State to Pauley Pavilion in a rematch of last season’s national championship game. Amazingly, tonight’s match is not televised. I would have thought that, after last year’s epic match one of the networks would have been chomping at the bit to televise this one, but, apparently, I’m wrong.
Last Time Out
On Wednesday night, UCLA avoided the “trap match” and swept the UCSB Gauchos, 25-20, 25-16, 25-21. In fact, the Bruins came out in the first set and immediately took a 3-0 lead. That would prove to be enough as UCLA ran away with the first set. At one point, the Bruins led by 12, 18-6, and it was a good thing because the Gauchos made a valiant comeback attempt. UCSB went on a 14-5 run to close the gap back down to just three points at 23-20. A kill from Austin Matautia gave UCLA a set point and a service ace from Micah Ma’a ended the set.
The second set saw the Bruins take an early 4-2 lead, but, this time, they avoided letting UCSB back into it. The closest the Gauchos would get would be a point down at 7-6. Over the course of the rest of this set, UCLA just kept increasing their lead while denying consecutive points to UCSB until the Bruins led by nine at 23-14. The teams alternated the final four points and UCLA led the match, 2-0.
The Bruins jumped ahead quickly in the third set as well by scoring the first two points. After alternating the next five points, UCLA was up 4-3. A 7-1 run extended the Bruins’ lead to seven at 11-4. With the score 13-6, UCSB went on a 3-0 mini-run to cut UCLA’s to four, but the Bruins extended it back to six on a Gaucho service error and a Daenan Gyimah kill. UCSB didn’t throw in the towel, though, and went on a 4-1 run to cut the Bruins’ lead to three at 16-13. A 5-1 run by UCLA pretty much closed the door on this one by giving the Bruins a seven-point edge, 21-14, even if a similar run by the Gauchos cut the lead back to three at 22-19. That ended UCSB’s comeback try and UCLA went home with a 25-21 set win and a 3-0 match sweep.
Long Beach State 49ers
Last season, Long Beach State went 28-1 en route to a national championship. This year’s team has picked right up where last year’s team left off.
When these teams first met in mid-February, the 49ers had lost only one set in their first twelve matches. In their first five matches this season, Long Beach State has yet to lose a set.
This year’s team lost five seniors after the championship match. They’ve added five freshmen to fill those roster spots, but the core of last year’s title team is still there.
Well, last week’s hiccup against Cal State Northrige aside, this will be a great test to see how the Bruins have progressed. In last season’s two regular season meetings, Long Beach State won both matches, 3-1, as the Bruins went into a little bit of a tailspin where they lost four of five matches.
While the Bruins were able to force the championship match to five sets last year, I don’t think that this year’s team is there quite yet. So, I think Long Beach State will probably take this one, 3-1.
Hopefully, the Bruins prove me wrong.