It was a concern in preseason and it is still bandaged as a precaution, but the left hand of Kyle Caldwell carried the UCLA men’s volleyball team to victory on Wednesday.
The junior setter, who hurt his hand in a practice in late December, smacked kills and blocked opposing attacks with ease in UCLA’s 3-0 victory over Pepperdine at Pauley Pavilion. The win was an important one, coming after a disappointing five-set loss to Long Beach State on Friday in which UCLA blew a 2-0 lead.
“That was good for us … It’s good to see us come out tonight and kind of just stick it to them,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell led the Bruins with 14 kills, but everyone chipped in on a night when UCLA hit .482 for the match and held Pepperdine to a .268 clip.
“We were passing really well,” junior quick hitter Thomas Amberg said. “We were able to distribute the ball evenly throughout our team and that really helped keep Pepperdine off-guard blocking-wise, so we were able to hit for high numbers tonight.”
UCLA also outplayed Pepperdine on the block, with 8.5 blocks to the Waves’ three.
Although the No. 4 Bruins (7-2, 2-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) won easily, each set ended with a mini-run by the No. 8 Waves (2-4, 0-4), which made things interesting.
After winning the first two sets 25-21 and 25-20, respectively, UCLA was up a comfortable margin at 21-16 in the final set, but Pepperdine held on to cut the deficit to two. The Waves were led by sophomore opposite Maurice Torres, who hit back-to-back service aces to make the score 21-19.
He committed a service error on the next point, and freshman outside hitter Gonzalo Quiroga gave the Bruins a 25-20 third-set win.
Coach Al Scates said he called his timeouts late in sets in order to disrupt the momentum Torres and the Waves were gaining.
Though the Bruins enjoyed a virtually mistake-free night, serving was again an issue. Scates said he felt the Bruins’ early serves put them in good position for blocks and digs, and that they strayed from those serves later on.
“I wasn’t happy with it,” Scates said of his team’s service game. “I thought we served really good in game one and then in game two and three guys started trying to make aces and we didn’t need to do that.”
Sweeping a team like Pepperdine ““ which had lost three consecutive five-set matches prior to Wednesday ““ and keeping them winless in the powerful MPSF is a feat that Scates isn’t downplaying, especially since UCLA’s next match is against crosstown rival USC, the No. 1 team in the nation.
“This was our best match of the year so far,” Scates said.