The Bruins have the chance to avenge a five-set upset from last season Tuesday.
No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (10-1) hosts No. 12 Cal State Northridge (6-3) at Pauley Pavilion for their first of three games this week. Last season saw the then-No. 14 Matadors upset the No. 5 Bruins in a game where CSUN came back to win the fourth and fifth sets.
“They’re going to be a challenge,” said freshman libero Garland Peed. “Last year, they gave us some problems. I wasn’t here but that is what all the guys are saying and we’re going to have to step up.”
The Bruins face a high-scoring Matador team led by outside hitter Dimitar Kalchev. Kalchev leads the Matadors with 97 kills this season, hitting .368.
Sophomore middle blocker Daenan Gyimah noted CSUN’s offensive prowess, especially in opposite Arvis Greene.
“They have a lot of firepower we’re expecting, well not hopefully a good showing from (Greene),” Gyimah said. “They have a lot of physicality so we’re going to have to neutralize that.”
This season, Greene has 95 kills so far, averaging 4.52 kills per set and with a season high of 22 kills against No. 8 Lewis. Greene was a major problem last year against the Bruins, as he logged 25 kills and hit .449.
“I know (Greene) spent the summer with us with the national team and is a great player,” said coach John Speraw. “They have some nice talent with some great arms so I expect another in a long line of challenging matches for us”.
To limit Greene’s efficiency, Speraw said a key asset will be the Bruins’ mentality of hard serves, risking errors.
“It’s hard to block him because he’s so physical,” Speraw said. “Hopefully you serve tough enough to put him into some challenging offensive situations.”
CSUN is also one of the best serving teams in the country, with 70 aces – an average of 2.3 per set. Against their opponents, the Matadors’ serving has led to 70 errors over the course of the season.
“For us, it’s all about getting their big guys off the line,” Gyimah said. “They have a couple guys who can go back there and rip the ball, so as long as we take care of those points, we’ll be fine. Just have to set the easy guy to side out.”
UCLA is currently on a three-game win streak following wins over No. 3 Hawai’i (8-1), Princeton (1-7) and No. 4 UC Irvine (10-2).
Senior opposite Christian Hessenauer continues to lead the team with 122 kills and comes off a 15-kill game against UCI, where he had a hitting percentage of .400.
“We’re going to have to step up and make some good plays against some top-tier talent,” Peed said.