The Bruins limited the top-serving team in the country to just one ace Tuesday.
No. 2 UCLA (11-1) trounced No. 12 CSUN (6-4) in four sets, avenging last season’s upset against the Matadors.
The Matadors lead the NCAA in aces, averaging 2.26 aces per set. CSUN failed to manage more than one across the four sets they played in Pauley Pavilion, however.
“They were a good serving team but we could pass the ball, so I don’t think we had too much trouble with it,” said junior outside hitter Dylan Missry.
Coach John Speraw said his team’s passing needed a lot of improvement early in the season, but the Bruins have been passing well since putting an emphasis on it.
“(Freshman libero) Garland (Peed) keeps getting better, (Missry) and (senior outside hitter) JT (Hatch) have been great,” Speraw said. “I thought we did a really good job of passing tonight and our offense, when we’re doing that, has just been really good. All in all, our offense kept us in the match.”
The Bruins hit .430 on the night, with senior opposite Christian Hessenauer and Missry leading the team with 17 and 15 kills, respectively.
Both teams took some time to find their rhythm. UCLA and CSUN battled back and forth, unable to pull away with a decisive lead in the first set.
“I think we started pretty slow,” Missry said. “We were a little off, but I think we got it together.”
The Bruins started to gain momentum with their offense, outhitting the Matadors .448 to .333 in set one to claim it 25-21.
The Matadors continued to pressure the Bruins in the second set, improving their hitting percentage to .500 and putting as many as four points between themselves and their opponent.
UCLA battled back to within 1 point, but ultimately couldn’t stop CSUN from reaching set point. The Matadors finished off the set with a kill from outside hitter Dimitar Kalchev, who posted 14 kills overall.
Opposite Arvis Greene logged 16 kills overall to lead CSUN offensively. The Matador has previously played on the national team with Speraw.
“He’s a real matchup nightmare, because he can just play so high above the net and he hits down, so it’s hard to defend,” Speraw said.
The Bruins stepped back onto the court for set three with a newfound energy. They led 20-12 and continued to dominate the set until the end, finishing it easily 25-18.
“I think we had a good shift in mindset between the second and third set,” said Missry, who hit. .609 on the night. “I think we knew we were struggling, a little tired, a little beat up. And we really needed to get in the right mental frame and start pressuring them. I think we did a good job of that.”
Set four found the Matadors returning to challenge the Bruins, taking a 1- to 2-point lead on at least six different occasions. Greene was also critical for CSUN’s defense, posting nine digs.
“(Greene) is a super good player and he obviously showed it with his athleticism, so I think he hurts us every time we play him,” Missry said. “It’s just about limiting that.”
UCLA chipped away at the point deficit, executing well at the net and carrying its momentum to end the final set 25-19. Redshirt senior middle blocker Oliver Martin finished the game with five blocks.
“I think our team this year is a lot better at winning games (in which) we’re not really doing well in,” said junior setter Micah Ma’a. “We call them ugly games. We’re just better at getting out of the hole emotionally, and staying more consistent.”
UCLA will play two more games this week, traveling to Concordia and Grand Canyon for its first two conference matchups.