UCLA men’s volleyball kept USC under 20 in all three sets Wednesday to complete the season sweep for the second year in a row.
The No. 6 Bruins (16-7, 9-6 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) took down the No. 11 Trojans (11-13, 5-10) by scores of 25-18, 25-19, 25-17.
Junior outside hitter Jake Arnitz and sophomore outside hitter Dylan Missry led all players with 12 and ten kills in the win, respectively.
UCLA outperformed USC in every statistical category other than digs, including notching eight aces to the Trojans’ zero. The match marked senior middle blocker Mitch Stahl’s 15th consecutive match with an ace and Missry’s seventh match this season with multiple aces.
“Our team did a really good job of coming out and serving the ball and blocking the ball,” Stahl said. “(Serving and blocking) have been two of our strengths that have been a little inconsistent, but tonight it was consistent the whole way through the match.”
Stahl tallied a career-high-tying nine block assists. The Bruins recorded 21 block assists compared to the Trojans’ 12. Coach John Speraw and Stahl said UCLA has been focusing on blocking fundamentals in recent practices.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on blocking defense over the past couple of weeks and I think there were some technical things that the guys are doing better,” Speraw said. “Every day it’s been an area of focus and I think we’re starting to see some results.”
In his first full match this season at libero, junior JT Hatch was second on the team with six digs.
“He’s a great ball control guy, but sometimes he doesn’t really get to show that off as much whenever he’s playing outside as much,” Stahl said. “The guy passes nails and he digs a lot of balls and he just has a high volleyball IQ.”
Hatch said the transition to libero is made easier because he still plays middle back like he did as an outside hitter.
With just three more matches until the MPSF tournament, Speraw said he is pleased with his team’s mental preparedness and emotional state going into those matches.
“I really felt like the energy and the confidence and the work ethic has really been there,” Speraw said. “Even though this season has been a challenge, there’s zero discouragement, and I’m really proud of the guys for that.”