The Bruins’ path to their 20th NCAA championship begins Tuesday.
No. 3 seed UCLA men’s volleyball (24-7, 9-3 MPSF) will face No. 6 seed Harvard (13-13, 10-4 EIVA) in the NCAA tournament quarterfinal Tuesday at Pauley Pavilion.
“We expect them to play like they have nothing to lose,” said sophomore middle blocker Daenan Gyimah. “They’re going to be in on every point and fighting. It’s going to be a tougher game than everyone is anticipating.”
The entirety of the NCAA tournament will be played at Pauley Pavilion. UCLA has only lost one game at home over the course of the season to No. 1 seed Long Beach State (26-1, 9-1 Big West).
Gyimah and junior setter Micah Ma’a were named 2018 First Team All-Americans. Three others were named honorable mentions: senior opposite Christian Hessenauer, senior libero JT Hatch and senior outside hitter Jake Arnitz.
The Crimson earned its first NCAA tournament bid in program history after it secured a win in the EIVA conference championship. Harvard defeated Princeton 3-1 in the championship match to clinch its first-ever conference championship win. Coach John Speraw said he expects a familiar offense opposite the Bruins.
“They’re running a 6-2 so hopefully we have some familiarity with that system and style of play, because we’ve done that the past couple of years,” Speraw said. “It gives them a lot of opportunity for some offensive options. We know we’re going to have a tough match.”
This match marks the second time the Bruins and the Crimson have met, with UCLA leading the all-time series with a sweep during the 2016-2017 season.
Harvard players Brad Gretsch and Marko Kostich were named to the All-EIVA First Team. Gretsch was named the most outstanding player of the EIVA conference tournament, finishing hitting for an average of .378 and logging 30 kills.
Defensively, the Crimson ranks No. 5 in the nation in team digs with 9.79 per set. Speraw said one of the team’s greatest strengths is its passing.
“The most impressive thing they do is pass the ball, so they’re able to set it quickly and get everyone involved in the offense,” said Speraw. “They have some really good players and I was impressed watching them play. I thought they were simple and clean.”
UCLA fell in five sets to Ohio State in the semifinal round of the NCAA tournament two seasons ago. Junior outside hitter Dylan Missry said tournament experience will help the Bruins, instead of having to wait a week and a half for their first game.
“I like it better that we get to have a game on Tuesday and see what we have and play some things out and hopefully get a win,” Missry said. “We’ll have a game of experience in the NCAA tournament that BYU doesn’t have, and (it) will hopefully work in our favor.”
The winner of the opening-round match will advance to face No. 2-seeded BYU (22-6, 10-2 MPSF) in the tournament semifinal Thursday at 7:30 p.m.