Men’s volleyball coach John Speraw has generally chosen to stick with his go-to seven-man lineup, but he still likes to experiment.
No. 2 UCLA (9-1, 6-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) swept Princeton (2-4) on Sunday, and Speraw utilized four nonstarters in the win.
“We’ve had a lot of close matches lately, so they really haven’t seen much action,” said junior outside hitter JT Hatch. “It’s good for them to get in and play and it’s fun for us to get some more guys out there. I think it was good, they played really well.”
One such player, senior outside hitter Michael Fisher, finished second in kills for the team with five on the night and led the Bruins with eight blocks. The total is tied for the most blocks in a match this season for UCLA.
“We have a really nice, deep team, we know we can go to anybody,” Speraw said. “When a guy like (Fisher) hasn’t played in a while this is a nice opportunity for him to kick some of the cobwebs off, and I thought he did a nice job, particularly in blocking the ball and serving.”
Redshirt junior middle blocker Oliver Martin also made significant contributions for the Bruins against the Tigers with four kills on four attempts and seven blocks.
Compared to his 2016 campaign, in which he started for much of the year, Martin has seen less playing time this season. Speraw said that – at least for now – freshman Daenan Gyimah holds the starting spot. Still, Speraw said that Martin is going to see time this year and knows he is an important member of this team.
“Oliver is very, very good at blocking quick, he had a great offensive year last year, his numbers were just as good as (senior middle blocker) Mitch (Stahl)’s,” Speraw said. “He had a great game against Ohio State in the semis even though we lost. So we know (Martin) can be the guy.”
While these players have had fewer hitting attempts off the bench, they have produced more efficiently than most of the starters. Martin is currently tied for second on the team in hitting percentage with junior opposite Christian Hessenauer – another nonstarter.
Hessenauer most notably notched six kills on nine attempts against UC San Diego, and Speraw said that he proved himself in that game.
“When we run the 6-2 system he obviously doesn’t get as much playing time as he would like,” Speraw said. “But he deserves it and gives the team more versatility if we can do that.”
Like Hessenauer, sophomore outside hitter Dylan Missry has also been subbed into the game for a pin hitter. Missry is currently fourth on the team in hitting percentage at .423, and recorded eight kills against Ohio State.
At the beginning of the season, Speraw said that he sees leadership from his core of seniors, including Fisher, but he also notices that characteristic present in Missry and setter/opposite Micah Ma’a, another sophomore.
“I think we’re a really deep team and anyone can come in and do that on any given night,” Fisher said after the Princeton match. “Tonight it was my night and this week it’ll be someone else’s time.”