The Bruins will begin single-elimination play in a pursuit of an automatic NCAA Tournament bid this weekend.
No. 2 seed UCLA men’s volleyball (22-6, 9-3 MPSF) will face No. 7 seed Stanford (6-19, 3-9) in the MPSF conference quarterfinal Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.
The MPSF Tournament presents the Bruins with a chance to capture the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament over the next two weeks.
The Bruins beat Stanford in each of their matchups this season, both in four-set matches. UCLA most recently faced Stanford before their win over BYU, taking the win at home. Sophomore middle blocker Daenan Gyimah said he anticipates a contested rematch.
“I think they are going to give us a run for our money; they’re going to give us everything they have,” Gyimah said. “I’m not overlooking this game, I’m so dialed in. From the time we beat BYU I was so dialed in for the first point of that game.”
The last time Stanford beat UCLA was during the 2017 season, in a five-set match at the Maples Pavilion. Over the past decade, the Bruins have won 12 of the teams’ 22 meetings.
Stanford boasts a postseason history that includes two NCAA Tournament wins – most recently in 2010 – and 16 MPSF Tournament wins.
The Bruins haven’t taken home the national championship trophy since beating Penn State in 2006, but still lead all NCAA men’s volleyball programs with 19 titles.
The Cardinal have improved since setter Paul Bischoff and outside hitter Jordan Ewert returned from injury. In their the final four regular season games with those two back from injury, the duo contributed 64 of the team’s 259 points. Junior outside hitter Dylan Missry said the Bruins do not anticipate as dominant of a performance this week as they had the last time around.
“They have those guys back. Another week of training to work some things out will be beneficial to them,” Missry said. “The team’s going to be a lot better than what we saw last week.”
In Ewert’s absence, opposite Jaylen Jasper carried the Cardinal’s offensive workload. Jasper finished the regular season hitting for .243 and logging 359 kills, and was voted AVCA National Player of the Week after the last week of the season. Coach John Speraw said Stanford’s record does not reflect its skill level.
“They’re a smart team. They’re going to go back and watch some video and figure out what they need to do tactically to challenge us,” Speraw said. “They’ve only had their group together for a short period of time because of injuries. If they had been healthy all season they wouldn’t be in seventh place.”
If UCLA wins against Stanford at home, it will travel to Provo, Utah, to play in the semi-finals at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse. The Bruins would either play No. 3 seed Pepperdine (15-7, 8-4) or No. 4 seed Concordia (15-14, 5-7) in the semifinal round.