Monday, November 18

Volleyball silences Hawai’i fans twice in a row

Sophomore quick hitter Thomas Amberg led No. 4 UCLA with a .632 clip in Friday's 3-1 win over Hawai'i. The Bruins swept the No. 6 Warriors this weekend.

Sophomore quick hitter Thomas Amberg led No. 4 UCLA with a .632 clip in Friday's 3-1 win over Hawai'i. The Bruins swept the No. 6 Warriors this weekend. Farzad Mashhood / Daily Bruin

For the UCLA men’s volleyball team, every match this season has come down to just two aspects: serving and blocking.

But Friday night in Hawaii, UCLA’s play was highlighted by something else.

“It was all about hitting,” UCLA coach Al Scates said. “That was what won it for us.”

And with a dominant hitting performance by the No. 4 Bruins (6-5, 5-3) in Honolulu, UCLA handled the No. 6 Warriors (6-5, 4-4), 30-26, 23-30, 30-25, 30-28, in addition to dominating the net for a four-set win Thursday night over Hawai’i, 27-30, 30-25, 30-26, 30-25.

And with more than 3,000 Hawai’i supporters at each match, UCLA had some tough conditions to play through.

“Lots of hecklers, lots of people right in your face,” sophomore quick hitter Nick Vogel said of the hostile crowd. “All the guys on our team handled it pretty well. We kind of converted it into energy for our own team, and it definitely was a big sense of accomplishment for 3,000 people that are dead quiet after you beat a team.”

UCLA relied on consistently hot hitting Friday with three players, senior outside hitter Garrett Muagututia (25), redshirt sophomore opposite Jack Polales (16) and sophomore quick hitter Thomas Amberg (14), finishing with double-digit kills. The Bruins hit .371 while only allowing Hawai’i to a .348 clip.

But with both teams close throughout the match, Scates credited the match-clinching fourth set win to his team’s strong serving and ability to hold Hawai’i to a mere .229 clip. With the majority of UCLA’s servers delivering powerful jump serves, Scates said he expected them to taper off near the end of the match, but they continued their strong serving.

Vogel added that the difference came with tough defense and a confident attitude despite a hostile crowd.

Amberg helped the Bruins establish a comfortable lead late in the final set by holding his serve for four straight points, finishing with two aces and a .895 serving percentage. Amberg led the match in hitting as well with a .632 clip, hitting just two errors on 19 swings and slamming 14 kills.

The Warriors delivered a punishing attack from junior outside hitter Joshua Walker, who scorched the Bruins for 25 kills on a whopping 46 swings. Sophomore outside hitter Steven Hunt and freshman outside hitter Jonas Umlauft added 12 and 16 kills, respectively.

Scates kept the revolving door at the second outside hitter position moving, with redshirt sophomore Jeremy Casebeer earning the starting nod Friday and redshirt junior Dylan Bowermaster coming in later in the match.

Freshman Chen Levitan maintained his serving duties, but Scates said he has been improving in practice and is likely to see more playing time soon.

The second hitting slot remained a problem for the Bruins.

“The other five guys carried the load,” Scates said of the rest of his lineup. “All we needed at that one outside position was the passing of Bowermaster and Casebeer, and we got that. I’m just looking at who’s hot on a particular night.”

To Vogel, the movement at the second outside spot represents the Bruins’ depth.

“I think the depth that we have right now is actually a really good thing,” Vogel said. “Having two options at one position is really great.”

Thursday night’s win took a different tone with the Bruins dominating the net, outblocking Hawai’i 16 to 7.5.

The Bruins were led in that department by Vogel, who had 10 block assists and a solo block.

“Vogel put on a blocking clinic (Thursday) night,” Scates said. “Best night of blocking in his UCLA career. He was just amazing.”

Vogel added that UCLA’s blocking came in part from successful scouting.

“The block … absolutely got in their heads,” he said.

Casebeer had a dominant hitting match with eight kills on nine swings, complementing Muagututia’s 21 kills and .432 clip.

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