After a six day hiatus, UCLA men’s volleyball picked up right where they left off.
The No. 6 Bruins (14-7, 8-6 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) struck down the unranked Sacred Heart Pioneers (12-4, 5-2 Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) in straight sets Friday in the John Wooden Center – their second sweep in three March victories.
All three sets had very similar narratives.
UCLA and Sacred Heart scored at a relatively neck-to-neck pace until the score reached the teens. By then the Bruins started to pull away, winning the sets with scores of 25-15, 25-19 and 25-15.
Filling out the scorecard, UCLA outpaced Sacred Heart in nearly every statistical category.
“We’ve been trying to work on every little thing in practice,” said junior opposite Christian Hessenauer. “We’ve been really working on our team chemistry as well as stuff on the court so, so far so good and hopefully we can carry this over to the end of the year.”
Sophomore Dylan Missry led the Bruins in two categories. The outside hitter notched 10 kills and three service aces.
Still working his way back from injury, senior middle blocker Mitch Stahl led the team with three blocks while contributing six kills and an ace as well.
On Friday, 11 Bruins got the call to the floor as senior libero Jackson Bantle came in to provide service support sporadically throughout the game, and junior outside hitter JT Hatch came in for fellow junior outside hitter Jake Arnitz in the final set of the match.
Arnitz was one of the UCLA athletes struck down with injury this season, however, coach John Speraw said his substitution was not about injury but about getting Hatch more playing time.
“No, I think (Arnitz) is fine,” Speraw said in regard to Arnitz returning after an injury. “JT hadn’t played in a little bit and he’s obviously going to get back out there at some point. We need everyone, so it was good to see him. He looked fresh.”
Also seeing a little playing time was redshirt junior middle blocker Eric Sprague and senior outside hitter Michael Fisher, both of whom came in as the game neared an end.
Despite the solid effort on paper, the Bruins didn’t think it was their best game yet.
“Honestly, I don’t think we played all that well. We’ve played a lot better,” said freshman middle blocker Daenan Gyimah. “It comes down to focus in a game like today. We’re in a smaller gym, not as many fans, maintain your energy and try to play within yourself.”
Up next, UCLA takes on unranked Concordia on Saturday in the John Wooden Center.