The Bruins will begin their second round of conference play on the road.
No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball (16-4, 6-0 MPSF) will face No. 9 Brigham Young (9-6, 4-3) and No. 8 Stanford (13-7, 1-1) on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
“Both these games are going to be completely different than the ones when we faced them before,” said senior setter Micah Ma’a.
UCLA defeated BYU in four sets on February 9th, holding the Cougars to a .118 hitting percentage and forcing 21 attacking errors. The Bruins recorded 13 aces and 10 blocks and hit for .229 – compared to the Cougars’ seven aces and 10.5 blocks.
BYU holds a 7-1 home record this season and is led by opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez, who posted 11 kills and three aces and hit for .097 in the Cougars’ loss against UCLA. Fernandez has recorded a team-high 238 kills and 21 aces this season.
The Bruins have not won a match at the Cougars’ George Albert Smith Fieldhouse since 2009.
“I’ve never beaten BYU at BYU and it’s probably the toughest place to play in the nation,” Ma’a said. “They’re a completely different team when they’re at home.”
UCLA won its matchup against Stanford in five sets on Feb. 7. The Bruins recorded 13 blocks, two aces and a .271 hitting percentage compared to the Cardinal’s 17 blocks, one ace and a .254 hitting percentage.
Stanford holds a 12-1 record at Maples Pavilion this season and has won six of its last eight games. Opposite Jaylen Jasper recorded 20 kills and hit for .395 against UCLA and has posted a team-high 261 kills and 17 aces this season.
Sophomore middle blocker Grant Maleski – who recorded eight kills and seven blocks against the Cardinal – said the Bruins hope to begin matches on the road with more energy.
“I think it’s having super good energy,” Maleski said. “(Coach John Speraw) always talks about being road warriors, so if we’re able to maintain our energy at BYU and same against Stanford, I think we’ll be successful.”
UCLA has a chance to continue to use its bench for both offensive and defensive contributions in the following matches because of a season-ending injury to junior outside hitter Austin Matautia – who recorded 164 kills, 13 aces, and 29 blocks this season before suffering a lower-leg injury. Senior outside hitter Dylan Missry also has missed the Bruins’ last 10 games because of injury.
“We have such a big roster and at times it seems a bit absurd, but right now, when a lot of guys are injured, it just helps to have a bunch of guys on the team,” Maleski said.
Speraw said the Bruins have to remain resilient and versatile in order to continue their success throughout the rest of the season.
“I think we’ve been pretty adaptable. We’ve gone through several different lineups and we’re 6-0, ” Speraw said. “I’m really proud of the guys’ flexibility and patience. We need to continue to find new ways to win.”