The Bruins will face the two newest additions to their conference this weekend.
No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (11-1) will travel to Concordia (3-2) on Thursday and No. 10 Grand Canyon (10-2) on Saturday for its first two conference matchups.
Both teams were added to the MPSF this season, replacing six teams that left to form the Big West Conference.
“I think that’s cool that we get some more teams that aren’t the normal California teams, like the Pepperdines, the Stanfords,” said junior outside hitter Dylan Missry. “We get some other guys in there, which I think is good for growing the game and getting more people in the conferences. It’s a step in the right direction.”
Concordia leads the NCAA in blocks per set this season, averaging 2.74. The Eagles fell to the Bruins last season in a five-set battle in the John Wooden Center. Outside hitter Raymond Barsemian leads Concordia offensively, with 73 kills this season.
Grand Canyon has only given up matches to No. 4 UC Irvine and No. 3 Hawai’i.
The Antelopes boast a bevy of experience on their roster, with a total of three redshirt seniors and six seniors. Three different hitters have logged over 90 kills, with Shalev Saada’s 97 kills pacing the team followed by Will Schwab’s 95 and Cody Williams’ 90.
This week will mark the first time UCLA plays in either team’s gym.
“Our challenge is just two new gyms that we’ve never played in before and going to places that have never had UCLA there,” said coach John Speraw. “So they’re going to be excited.”
Junior setter Micah Ma’a talked about the challenges of being on the road during midterms season. UCLA will travel to Phoenix for its matchup against Grand Canyon.
“We just have to study, stay on top of that and the traveling will be a lot easier,” Ma’a said. “If you’re behind on your schoolwork, that’s when it really starts to get stressful.”
UCLA most recently ousted No. 12 CSUN on Tuesday night in Pauley Pavilion. Ma’a said the team has been looking healthier and better connected at this point in the season compared to previous years.
“Chemistry is great, everyone is really healthy compared to years past,” Ma’a said. “We’ve always had some injuries so I’m just glad that everyone’s healthy and we can actually have the team that we want out there.”
The Bruins are currently riding a four-game win streak heading into conference play. They will face these two teams on the road this weekend before returning to host crosstown rival No. 14 USC on Wednesday.
“I think it’s just going to be a real opportunity for us to be challenged in some hostile environments and some new arenas and see how we perform,” Speraw said. “We’re going to have to expect that whatever team we’re playing, we’re going to get the very best of that team.”