The #2 UCLA men’s volleyball team opens the 2019 season tonight with a home match against the Princeton Tigers.
Last season, the Bruins faced top-seeded Long Beach State for the NCAA Championship. While the thrilling match went to five sets, UCLA couldn’t pull it through at home.
The Bruins lost four seniors after last season. Starters Jake Arnitz, JT Hatch, Christian Hessenauer, and Oliver Martin all graduated after last season as did Eric Matheis. Given that UCLA lost four starters, the Bruins have some big shoes to fill.
Additionally, the Bruins have lost assistant coach Brad Keller. Keller was recently named associate head coach of the UCLA women’s volleyball team.
The Bruins have added three transfers this season. Outside hitter Austin Matautia and opposite Brandon Rattray both join UCLA from Hawai’i while middle blocker Matt Younggren has transferred from UC Irvine.
Libero/outside hitter Cole Pender, opposite/outside hitter Kevin Kobrine, setter/opposite Cole Johnson, middle blocker/outside hitter Daniel Matheney, and outside hitters Sam Burgi and Ian Eschenberg all make up this year’s freshman class.
That’s a lot of newcomers this year.
There’s one more newcomer, who really isn’t a newcomer, though. That’s Spencer McLachlin who was announced today as an assistant coach for this year’s squad. McLachlin previously served as a volunteer assistant to John Speraw in 2015 and 2016. The past two seasons, McLachlin had served as an assistant coach for UC Berkeley’s women’s volleyball team.
There are so many newcomers that it makes you wonder who’s actually coming back. Well, the Bruins return three guys who played important roles on last season’s team. That would be setter Micah Ma’a, middle blocker Daenan Gyimah and outside hitter Dylan Missry.
After making the title match last season, it would be a disappointment if the Bruins didn’t return again this season, but it could be a challenge considering that UCLA lost four starters from last year’s team and that the Bruins seem to be reloading with a large group of freshmen. The three transfers should help, but UCLA will need to play well in the MPSF if they expect to return to this year’s NCAA Tournament, which will be played this year at the Walter Pyramid on the campus of Cal State Long Beach.
With no disrespect meant to Princeton, I expect a 3-0 sweep. That was the result when the Tigers visited Pauley last February and I see no reason why the results will be any different.
This is your UCLA men’s volleyball season opener open thread.