Twenty points into the fifth set and UCLA men’s volleyball finally went the distance.
The No. 6 Bruins (17-7, 10-6 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) defeated the Cal Baptist Lancers (7-19, 2-14) in a back-and-forth match by set scores of 25-23, 23-25, 25-15, 23-25 and 20-18.
Saturday’s win marked UCLA’s seventh-straight, tied for its longest win streak of the year.
Just like the entirety of the game, the fifth set was a back-and-forth affair. Both teams jumped out to small leads only to find the other roaring back. Eventually, it was 13-all. And then it was 14-13 Cal Baptist.
However, the Bruins would not go down, as they then fended off five match points.
Eventually, a kill by senior middle blocker Mitch Stahl put UCLA up 19-18 and a Cal Baptist attack error finished the game.
The Bruins outpaced the Lancers in nearly every statistical category. However, UCLA’s errors and a strong Cal Baptist front line kept the Lancers in the game.
Notching 29 errors, the Bruins far outpaced the Lancers’ 19, but they were still able to swing for a higher hitting percentage at .252 compared to .200.
Cal Baptist was also able to notch 19.5 team blocks compared to UCLA’s 10.5.
Junior outside hitter Jake Arnitz posted a season-high – and game-high – 21 kills. Stahl added on 11 kills, five blocks and three aces of his own.
Outside hitter Michael Fisher came off the bench to provide the Bruins with an offensive spark. In only three sets, the senior swung for a season-high 11 kills off of a .429 percentage.
Saturday also marked the return of sophomore setter/opposite Micah Ma’a, who had been sidelined with injury for the entire month of March.
In his return, Ma’a did not record a kill but notched 21 assists, a solo block, two assists – including a couple of crucial blocks in the fifth set – and four digs.
Just like Ma’a, senior setter/opposite Hagen Smith saw four sets of action but managed to swing for two kills, 38 assists, three service aces, three block assists and two digs.
For the second game in a row, freshman middle blocker Daenan Gyimah did not see any action. Redshirt junior middle blocker Oliver Martin was on the floor instead, notching seven kills and two blocks.
Up next are the final two games of the regular season for UCLA as it takes on No. 4 Hawai’i Friday and Saturday.