They live by the serve and they die by the serve. And on Friday, the UCLA men’s volleyball team went down in three to No. 2 UC Irvine as the Bruins’ service errors killed any of their momentum.
No. 5 UCLA dropped to 14-10, and 11-9 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play, after being swept by the Anteaters in a quick 30-26, 30-28, 30-21 blowout in front of a record crowd of 3,612 at Irvine’s Bren Center.
The Bruins made an uncharacteristic 24 service errors in the quick three-set match, an average of eight per game. UCLA has averaged only 4.5 up to this point in the season. These self-inflicted errors took the air out of the Bruins’ game.
“We didn’t get (Irvine) into the passing trouble that the previous opponents have that have beaten them,” coach Al Scates said. “We weren’t able to execute our serving game.”
With all those missed serves, Scates will look to rectify it quickly beginning at Monday’s practice.
“We are already serving a lot in practice,” Scates said. “But we’ll probably serve more on Monday.”
When the serve is the play that starts off a rally, errors will cost a team. This was never more evident than at the end of game two when the Bruins rallied back from 21-27 to close the gap to one at 28-29. However, team captain Paul George’s serve killed the team’s momentum as the Anteaters closed out the second set.
By game three, these unforced errors completely stifled any chance of a Bruin comeback. Scates also substituted freshman outside hitter Dylan Bowermaster for the struggling George, who had hurt his back Wednesday against Loyola University of Chicago. The senior captain hit an ineffective .000 before being pulled out.
“I probably shouldn’t have played Paul George tonight,” Scates said. “We sat him out of practice (Thursday). He wasn’t on his game. Hopefully with a couple days’ rest we’ll evaluate him on Monday.”
With the other half of the senior duo out, the load fell completely on opposite Steve Klosterman’s shoulders. Although he put down 21 kills on the night, the Bruin offense was one-dimensional, with only UCLA’s go-to hitter registering double digits on the night.
“We became rather predictable and went to Steve a lot,” Scates said. “Irvine knew we were going to him but we went to him anyway. But Steve played a great game.”
The Bruins are now 2-6 away from the friendly confines of Pauley Pavilion, and are hoping to make the best out of these road matches.
“We’re not yet road warriors,” Scates said. “Last year we were; we became road warriors in late March and April. We’re playing well at home but so far haven’t had a good road team.”