Sunday, December 15

Close, but not close enough

The Bruins fall short during their first MPSF match of the season against USC, but remain optimistic


Sam Strong / Daily Bruin

The ball teetered on the net during the second set before falling on UCLA’s side of the floor, giving USC a point in the crosstown rivalry Wednesday night. That point was indicative of how the match went for the Bruins, hanging tough but eventually falling short in four sets to the No. 1 Trojans (3-1, 1-0 MPSF), 30-26, 31-29, 26-30, 30-28 in front of 3,016 at Pauley Pavilion.

“We played well and we fought but we gave away too many points,” senior outside hitter Garrett Muagututia said.

The senior captain’s teammate Jack Polales echoed the same sentiments.

“We fought hard. We definitely could have played better,” the redshirt sophomore opposite said.

The No. 10 Bruins (1-3, 0-1) were close, but not close enough. Coach Al Scates wasn’t discouraged, however, with his team’s defensive and was optimistic about the remainder of the season.

“The defense was good. We dug over 50 balls tonight, which is some of the best defense we’ve played in several years,” Scates said. “We just needed a little more firepower. We played with a lot of heart and (USC) is the No. 1 team. We’re going to get better.”

Polales led the match with a career-high 25 kills, but was quick to give credit to his teammates.

“It was because of the middles and the outsides and the sets. Kevin (Ker) and Kyle (Caldwell) threw back some great balls and I just put them away,” he said.

After dropping the first set, the Bruins came from behind in the second to tie the score at one set, due in large part to the play of backup senior setter Kevin Ker. Muagututia started slowly, with just three kills in the first set, but finished with 21 overall.

“We’ve got to be confident. That was the difference in the game. They were making their serves and we were inconsistent with our serving,” Muagututia said.

The Bruins smacked 21 service errors and finished with a mere .814 serving percentage compared to the Trojans’ .881.

Being a rivalry match, rowdy fans and questionable calls were abundant ; USC players jawed with UCLA fans after the match.

“When (Jeremy) Casebeer made that dig, all of a sudden it was called a throw,” said Scates of a questionable call by the referees on a play in the final set. “Everybody’s been letting that go, which you’re supposed to do, so that was hurtful. But that’s the way it goes. I’m not blaming the refs. We should have won that fourth (set).”

It did not help either side’s cause with one of the linesman absent. Scates said one of his freshman players was forced to fill in.

UCLA is still trying to clear the logjam at the second outside hitter spot opposite Muagututia. Redshirt junior Dylan Bowermaster, sophomore Mitchel Johnson and Casebeer, a redshirt sophomore, all saw time Wednesday night. Scates said he was lacking production out of his two starters, Muagututia and Casebeer, and switched in Johnson and Bowermaster to jump-start the offense.

“I’ve got to have someone who can play steady at that position and give me a certain number of kills every night and I haven’t found him yet,” Scates said. “I want somebody to step up so I don’t have to have this revolving door at that position but they’ve got to produce. None of them have much experience, so we’re waiting.”

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