Coming off two straight losses, the Bruins’ troubles went from bad to worse as they were swept in an upset on the road.
No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (14-4, 3-1 MPSF) was upset by No. 10 Pepperdine (9-3, 3-1 MPSF) at the Firestone Fieldhouse in three sets. After the loss, coach John Speraw said the Bruins couldn’t get anything going.
“I think we really struggled to … play at a level that we have been playing (at) for quite some time,” Speraw said. “We really couldn’t sustain any momentum this evening.”
The first set started with the two teams battling for the lead. The difference between the two sides in the early stages of the match was at most three points until the Bruins gave up five straight points and surrendered their 17-15 lead.
Pepperdine closed the end of set one after its comeback. It held UCLA to four points, while scoring five points through three attacking errors from the Bruins and two kills from outside hitters David Wieczorek and Alex Harthaller.
Wieczorek and Harthaller put on an offensive display for Pepperdine. Wieczorek finished with 13 kills, four aces and hit for .440. Harthaller finished with 17 kills, hitting for .708.
“We played a team that was serving the ball well, and their two outside hitters just had great nights and they attack the ball well, especially on the pipe,” Speraw said. “I think they played well, some guys just have great nights.”
The set finished with an error from sophomore middle blocker Daenan Gyimah. With the set hanging in the air from an assist by junior setter Micah Ma’a, Gyimah hit the ball downward at a hard angle directly into his own net. The Bruins hit for -.036 in set one while the Waves hit for .226.
“They were a good serving team,” Ma’a said. “We were somewhat out of system a little bit. We didn’t set well enough and didn’t serve well enough.”
Set two began in favor of Pepperdine, which outscored UCLA 7-3 in the first 10 points of the match. This included a five-point streak to take a 6-1 lead early on. UCLA responded, scoring five points of their own in rapid succession to tie the game again at 10-10. Speraw said the runs made by the other team were not due to mental lapses, but clutch plays.
“I don’t know if it was mental,” Speraw said. “I think we’ve been really good after 20 all year. I think they just had their best servers go back and make plays and we didn’t.”
The set remained close until the later stages. Senior outside hitter Jake Arnitz scored two aces in a row against the Pepperdine back row to take a 21-18 lead. However, the Bruins slipped again in the late stages, with the Waves putting four points past them to take the lead again.
The set finished with an attacking error from Arnitz, a hard angle from the right side of the net sent out into the left side stands. UCLA’s hitting improved in the second set – they hit for .429. Still, Pepperdine was the offensively dominant team, hitting for 0.684 and posting a kill percentage of .737.
With the Waves one set away from an upset, they took the lead after coming back from 1-0 down and never lost it. There was only one lead change and five ties in the final set.
The match finished with a kill from Harthaller, a powerful downward drive from the middle of the Pepperdine side that ricocheted right off the UCLA two-man block and out of bounds. The Waves players mobbed the Austrian senior at the net upon sealing the win. The was the first match Pepperdine had bested UCLA in since the 2015 season.
The Bruins continue conference play against unranked Stanford on Thursday at Maples Pavilion.