Junior outside hitter Jake Arnitz – previously sidelined due to a foot injury – returned to action in the middle of the second set but the Bruins were unable to win for the fifth time in six matches.
No. 5 UCLA men’s volleyball (10-6, 7-5 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) was swept by No. 2 Long Beach State (13-2, 9-1) by scores of 20-25, 23-25, 22-25.
The offenses dominated the first set. Both teams hit .500, but the 49ers notched six more kills than the Bruins in order to come out on top.
Long Beach State ended the night with a .404 hitting percentage, even better than the team’s above-average .364 season clip.
“From a middle blocker’s perspective, (their offense) is a lot to keep track of,” said redshirt junior middle blocker Eric Sprague. “Their middle have a number of shots which pull me in many different directions. It’s very hard to scheme against this team.”
The two teams traded points to start set two, but the 49ers began to pull away. Coach John Speraw then made the decision to substitute in Jake Arnitz for the first time since Jan. 27.
“I wasn’t sure that we were going to use him because he hasn’t played in a few weeks, and he’s only had a couple days of training,” Speraw said. “At that point we needed to figure out a way to score some real points, and Arnitz gives us a bit more of a block to do that.”
The Bruins then fell to a 19-12 deficit and almost recovered thanks to a 6-0 service run from Sprague. Still, Long Beach State took the set.
In a do-or-die third set for the Bruins, they were again unable to get the job done despite five kills on five attempts from freshman middle blocker Daenan Gyimah and a team hitting percentage of .483. Gyimah led UCLA with 13 kills and tied with sophomore outside hitter Dylan Missry for a game-high five blocks.
All three sets were decided by five points or fewer, and Speraw said that it was the smaller parts of the Bruins’ game that made them lose the match.
“When you’re playing against a good team it’s one little play here, or one defensive assignment, one offensive choice,” Speraw said. “Tonight we across the board did not take care of some of those little things.”
In addition, Speraw said that UCLA lost the serve and pass battle. Compared to the 49ers’ five aces and one serve receive error, the Bruins had only one ace but four serve receive errors.
“Our serve and pass game wasn’t where it needed to be, and that’s what got us in the end,” Gyimah said. “We would let them get on little runs that they wouldn’t allow for us. Their side-out game was just stronger today.”