The Bruins are on a three-game losing streak, but have a chance to win three games in conference play this week.
No. 3 UCLA men’s volleyball (14-4, 3-1 MPSF) is set to face unranked Stanford (3-13, 1-4) at Maples Pavilion on Thursday. Afterward, the Bruins will travel straight to Provo, Utah, to face No. 5 BYU Cougars (12-4, 5-0) to finish a week of conference matches.
UCLA was upset by No. 8 Pepperdine on Friday in three sets. It was only the second time this season that the Bruins had been out-blocked and out-hit by an opponent. Junior outside hitter Dylan Missry said the team members have to improve quickly and their work ethic has to change to recover from the previous losses.
“I think sometimes we have a problem of getting a little complacent and think we need to grind and work everything out and get better – fast,” Missry said. “We’ve got to work really hard this week.”
Stanford sits second to last in the MPSF conference standings, and has only had three wins this season. The Cardinal’s two previous games were losses to the Cougars, who the Bruins face Saturday. Coach John Speraw noted that the games ahead are a part of an important conference schedule and both teams have a chance to improve on past results.
“Well, they’re in the middle of a tough season but they’re getting healthier and getting better,” Speraw said. “My expectation is that after the challenges they’ve had earlier in the season they are going to be really hungry. With the start of conference play, it is a fresh start for them.”
Senior outside hitter Christian Hessenauer has missed the past two games with a knee injury, though he is expected to be available this week. Freshman outside hitter Grant Maleski has played in his absence. Speraw said there are a number of improvements to be made in the team’s play.
“Well, we’re going to be working on a couple rotations that caused us some specific problems. Hopefully, getting (Hessenauer) healthy and continuing to work on the connection between (Micah Ma’a) and (Maleski),” Speraw said. “Obviously, we kind of threw that upon (Maleski) at the last second and it worked out well but we can make some improvements there.”
BYU has been on a seven-game win streak since the start of February. It finished as the runner-up in the past two NCAA championship games. Junior setter Ma’a said improvements need to be made in order to clean connections before the match.
“Coach wants us to do a lot of serve and pass and then cleaning up a little bit of connections,” Ma’a said. “Setter hitter connections will help too.”
Speraw also said going through connections in passing is crucial to the team’s success. This means refocusing on the back row sets and the execution of quick sets.
“We’ve got to get our bic going again and get our bic back to where it was earlier in the season,” Speraw said. “And of course transition seems to be a consistent theme with us.”