In last week’s losses to the No. 3 BYU Cougars – only the Bruins’ second and third of the season – the lack of Jake Arnitz and Mitch Stahl was noticeable.
“There definitely is a different chemistry on the court when you take away those two guys,” said coach John Speraw. “It’s not a bad chemistry; it’s just unfamiliar.”
Arnitz and Stahl both missed last week’s matches due to injuries, and neither are likely to play this week when No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball (9-3, 6-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) will face No. 8 Stanford (6-4, 3-2) on Thursday and No. 9 Pepperdine (4-3, 2-2) on Saturday.
Speraw said that junior outside hitter Arnitz is definitely out for both matches, but senior middle blocker Stahl has potential to return.
With newer players in the starting rotation in the place of these veterans, senior libero Jackson Bantle said that a focus has been the team chemistry with these other athletes.
“We’re focusing on each touch. We did a drill today where each good touch counted as a point,” Bantle said. “So just focusing on our touches and building chemistry between the people who are new to the side with our setters … has been our focus this week.”
Freshman middle blocker Daenan Gyimah said that the team is focusing on its mental game because that was UCLA’s downfall in Provo, Utah.
“We were really just trying to get back to where we were before those losses, mentally,” Gyimah said. “It’s pretty draining losing two nights in a row, especially after the first night was so hard.”
The Bruins’ first opponent of the week, the Cardinal, had similar outcomes in their matches last week.
After previously only losing to No. 1 Ohio State, Stanford fell to No. 2 Long Beach and No. 13 Cal State Northridge, both in straight sets. The Cardinal struggled offensively against the 49ers, with only one player tallying more than three kills.
“Both teams are looking to come back and rebound a little bit,” Speraw said. “I’m sure this upcoming match will have the intensity of two teams trying to get back on the winning track.”
Pepperdine most recently was swept by Long Beach as well. Both the Waves and the Cardinal only have one win over a ranked opponent thus far this year.