The Bruins will begin their chase for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
No. 2 seed UCLA men’s volleyball (18-8, 8-4 MPSF) will host No. 7 seed Concordia University Irvine (14-18, 3-9) in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament quarterfinal match Saturday.
UCLA defeated Concordia in each of its matchups this season, both in straight sets. The Bruins averaged 6.5 aces, eight blocks and hit for .339 across the two matches – while Concordia posted an average of four aces, 5.75 blocks and .106 hitting percentage.
Junior middle blocker Daenan Gyimah, who averaged 12.5 kills and 4.5 blocks against Concordia this season, said UCLA has to be aware of the different factors that come with playing in the postseason.
“Just knowing that anything can happen,” Gyimah said. “It’s playoffs and it’s crazy. There are a lot of things we can’t control, so we just have to try to control the things we can.”
Concordia lost its last two road matches in straight sets and holds a 1-10 overall record on the road this season. Outside hitters Jordan Hoppe and Raymond Barsemian helped lead the Eagles offensively in the regular season hitting for .271 and .227 with 317 and 206 kills, respectively. Hoppe also finished the regular season with a team-high 35 service aces.
Sophomore middle blocker Grant Maleski – who recorded three kills, three aces and two blocks in UCLA’s last win against Concordia – said the Bruins have to focus on executing their strengths.
“They’ve been playing really well and running a lot of back-row attacks super well,” Maleski said. “Our main focus is staying super competitive and knowing what we’re good at and really trying to do that well.”
The Bruins have won their last seven meetings against the Eagles, including a four-set win in the 2018 MPSF tournament semifinal match.
UCLA coach John Speraw said facing Concordia in the playoffs will be much tougher than its previous matchups in the regular season.
“We had a real tough time with them last year in the semifinal,” Speraw said. “They’re a well-coached team and they have the chance to come in here and get some confidence and make it a very difficult match and that is what we’re anticipating to happen.”
Should UCLA defeat Concordia, it will travel to Malibu to play in the semifinals at Pepperdine’s Firestone Fieldhouse on April 18.
“When everything’s on the line there are certain things that can always happen to put stress on your team,” Speraw said. “Teams come in with nothing to lose and they’re going to play hard, they have a lot of talented pieces.”