The Bruins have bested four top-10 opponents – most recently the Anteaters, for the second time this year.
No. 2 UCLA (10-1) defeated No. 4 UC Irvine (10-2) in four sets Saturday night.
Coach John Speraw credits the recent success of the Bruins with their bic attack.
Bic stands for “back row quick,” a style of offense that allows a team to disguise the intended hitter with a quick set. Senior outside hitter JT Hatch and junior outside hitter Dylan Missry have been running the bic when they are in the back row, giving junior setter Micah Ma’a an extra offensive option.
“The only time (the bic) was stopped is when we went over,” Speraw said. “It’s been a set that has taken a lot of work for both (Hatch) and (Missry) to improve, so it’s nice to see that their efforts are paying off.”
UCLA’s other offensive weapons were effective as well. Senior opposite Christian Hessenauer logged 15 kills and the Bruins’ squad hit .455 on the night, rising above their season average of .331.
In the first set, neither team was able to take a decisive lead until a service error by UC Irvine allowed UCLA to go on a 6-point run to take the lead 19-15.
Both Missry and sophomore middle blocker Daenan Gyimah hit 1.00 on the first set, logging six and four kills respectively. The Bruins closed out the set 25-21 with this offensive consistency.
Set two was a tighter race, with UC Irvine generating a stronger offense. Outside hitter Joel Schneidmiller had seven kills on the set, hitting .417 on the match for the Anteaters.
Despite Speraw listing serving as one of UCLA’s biggest struggles this season, Gyimah managed to make the service game his weapon late in the second set.
“Serving continues to be an area that has high potential, but hasn’t been great,” Speraw said. “I think we’re going to have to really think about how we train it and how we execute on it.”
The Bruins took the lead with Gyimah notching two consecutive service aces, allowing them to clinch the second set 25-22.
“When you serve physically you make sure you’re always in the same spot,” Gyimah said. “I’m trying to do that mentally … and sometimes it pays off.”
The Bruins were able to capitalize on crucial moments, scoring three out of four service aces late in each set.
The Anteaters went up 11-7 early in the third set, forcing the Bruins to spend both their time outs early on. UC Irvine’s junior opposite Karl Apfelbach notched five kills on the set and 17 kills on the night. The Anteaters took the set 25-18.
“I think that they’ve got some really great attackers,” Gyimah said. “They just play a tactful game attacking.”
UCLA took the lead early in the fourth set, up 12-8 with a kill by Ma’a. Aside from being tied twice, the Bruins led the entire final set, closing out the match 25-19 with a block by Ma’a and redshirt senior middle blocker Oliver Martin.
Ma’a noted how UCLA is looking to improve its setting strategy near the outside of the court. He logged a season-high 56 assists on the night.
“We talked about our go-ball,” Ma’a said. “We’re really good down the middle of the court, but we’re not that good on the outsides right now.”
UCLA will play its next match against No. 11 CSUN on Tuesday before heading into conference play.