The Bruins battled fatigue and a newfound scrappiness from their opponent to enter an eight-day break from competition.
No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball (19-5) won in four sets against No. 13 Grand Canyon (15-7). This was the Bruins’ second win over the Antelopes this season.
Although the first set began with the two teams battling for the lead, the Bruins dominated offensively. UCLA was only behind Grand Canyon once, at 6-5 early in the set. As a team, the Bruins hit for .450, with 11 kills, while the Antelopes hit for .043.
The Bruins went on a run of scoring at the end of the first set, with 5 straight points to make the score 21-13. Senior outside hitter Christian Hessenauer had six kills in the first set, hitting for .600. He was followed by sophomore middle blocker Daenan Gyimah, who was a perfect three for three in the set.
UCLA took the first set 25-15 with a kill from Gyimah to the center of the Grand Canyon side.
After a relatively close set with six ties and three lead changes, the Bruins controlled the second set, taking the lead at 2-1 and holding it for the rest of the set despite the scoring.
Defensively, the Bruins smothered the Antelopes’ attack throughout the match, with 16 blocks compared to their opponents’ five. Gyimah and Hessenauer had eight and six individual blocks, respectively. Coach John Speraw said the development of defensive scoring will be important heading into the postseason.
“We’re going to have to figure out how to score points beside our serve so when we’re serving great we’re usually playing great,” Speraw said. “We’re likely going to be at No. 2 BYU for the MPSF Tournament so we’re going to have to figure out how to score points in different ways against challenging teams”
Despite a late comeback from the Antelopes, the Bruins took the second set 25-20 with a kill from senior outside hitter Jake Arnitz. Arnitz finished the match with 12 kills, hitting for .364. Hessenauer said the match got increasingly difficult later as the Bruins lacked consistent hitting.
“Definitely later on in the sets the Antelopes began to pick up some balls, block some balls,” Hessenauer said. “I know we started bringing the balls a bit lower into the blocks … that’s obviously never good so we just need to keep swinging high and getting some good routes going.”
Two scoring runs of 5 and 4 points put Grand Canyon ahead 16-12 in the third set. The Antelopes would take the set 25-22. Their offense was led by outside hitter Will Schwob who finished with 14 kills, hitting for .367. Junior setter Micah Ma’a said that the main challenge posed by Grand Canyon was grit and a never lacking in energy.
“I think the toughest thing we faced was a scrappiness that we haven’t seen before. They brought a lot of energy and that’s a pressure in of itself,” Ma’a said. “It doesn’t need to be service pressure or hitting pressure, it can be pressure of intensity.”
In the deciding fourth set, the Bruins took control and never fell behind. The set and match finished 25-21 with a kill from Hessenauer.
UCLA will return after the break to face No. 12 UC Santa Barbara, followed by the final portion of its conference schedule before the MPSF Tournament the week of April 14.