After beating then-No. 5 UC Irvine in five sets last week, UCLA will continue its season against the undefeated UC San Diego Tritons.
No. 2 UCLA (4-0) will visit UCSD (3-0) on Tuesday night. UCSD has won their first three games of the season, sweeping UC Merced last week and beating both McKendree and King in the Wooden Classic Tournament.
The Bruins took both games last season against the Tritons, sweeping them in one and winning 3-1 in the other. However, coach John Speraw sees the game against UCSD as an annual challenge, as the Tritons oppose the Bruins well.
“I know that they are always really well-trained and I think that they play UCLA really well every year,” Speraw said. “I’m not sure if they feel like there’s a rivalry between the UC systems or whatever, but I always feel like we’ll get (UCSD’s) best and we’ll get that tomorrow.”
Coach John Speraw acknowledged the presence of the Tritons’ setter/opposite Tanner Syftestad.
“I know that their opposite Syftestad has gotten a lot better.” Speraw said.
Syftestad has led the team offensively this season, logging 51 kills. He was named the Sports Imports/AVCA National’s as well as the Big West Conference’s Player of the Week following the Wooden Classic. In both games, Syftestad had more than 20 kills, hitting 0.361.
However, Speraw noted that the Bruins are not occupied by their opposition, and is focused on improving on their side of the court.
“I haven’t been as familiar with them as I would be normally,” Speraw said. “It’s so early in the season and we’ve had so much room for improvement on our side of the net that I’ve just been pounding video on ourselves.”
The focus is mainly on the defensive side, as something Speraw sees the team working to improve this season is defensive blocking.
“Blocking seems like a never-ending conversation,” Speraw said. “I think that our best blocker last year was Mitch Stahl and he’s not here, so we’re looking for some guys to continue to improve. … I think there’s a lot of guys though that could be quite good.”
Although the focus has been on how players can improve their blocking, Speraw noted it as a matter of time and practice before the Bruins have those skills honed.
“We have to get better at blocking in the middle of the court,” Speraw said. “I think it’s going to take a season’s worth of repetition for them to get where we need to be.”