UCLA men’s volleyball rolled through the Wooden Classic this weekend without dropping a single set.
The No. 4 Bruins (3-0) took down the King University Tornado (1-2) in straight sets Friday, and swept the McKendree University Bearcats (0-4) the following night.
“I feel like after we played NJIT (in the season opener), we learned something from that and came out really aggressive versus King,” said coach John Speraw. “We were really sharp.”
UCLA logged 41 kills Friday – more than double King’s 19. Senior outside hitters Jake Arnitz and JT Hatch led the Bruins offensively with eight kills apiece. The Tornado was unable to score higher than 20 points in any set.
UCLA wasn’t able to dominate in the same way against McKendree the following night, but ultimately managed to pull off another sweep.
“Playing back-to-back nights happens, and it’s harder to do, but we have to figure out a way to be a bit more focused,” Speraw said. “There’s lots that we’ve taken from this week.”
McKendree took an early lead of seven points, jumping out ahead 11-4 in the first set.
UCLA then went on a five-point run, with sophomore outside hitter Dylan Missry serving behind the line, to shorten the point deficit. Two ace serves from Arnitz put the Bruins in the lead, helping the team rally back to win set one 25-21.
Neither team was able to get a major run in the second set, but the Bruins managed to stay ahead of McKendree.
Sophomore middle blocker Daenan Gyimah notched an assist and kill to give UCLA a comfortable five point gap, 21-16. The Bruins continued the momentum to claim set two 25-22.
The final set was another tight race, with both teams tied at 18 and 22. But the Bruins were eventually able to edge the Bearcats out, taking set three 29-27, with Arnitz leading his team offensively once again with 13 kills.
“It’s tough. … You’re coming out and trying to give it your all, it’s a quick turnaround,” junior setter Micah Ma’a said. “At the end there, I think we showed our toughness.”
Several rookies got their first taste of play time this weekend.
Freshman middle blocker Ian Parish logged two kills and a block, while freshman libero Garland Peed collected his first three digs as a Bruin against King, while freshman Colin Bailey logged three kills against the Bearcats.
“The freshmen have brought a new enthusiasm to the team and I think that’s super powerful,” Ma’a said. “It’s helped our team a lot, especially in the offseason, when you’re just grinding and you don’t get to play other teams.”
Serving errors continued to plague UCLA, with the team giving up 27 points Saturday night from missed serves.
“There’s just one thing you can do, and that’s to just go out and train,” Speraw said. “To understand how to manage your own service game – I thought we did an exceptionally poor job at that tonight.”
Arnitz said that UCLA’s serving could be a major factor when competing against some of the top teams this season.
“The service line, I think is the biggest thing,” Arnitz said. “If we can get other teams out of system, especially teams like BYU and Long Beach and Ohio State, we’ll be in good shape. We have the firepower.”
The Bruins will host UC Irvine on Wednesday night.