Sunday, December 15

Team aims to rally after loss to USC

Men's volleyball endured a tough defeat Thursday but hopes to come back strong against Pepperdine

Kevin Ker and the Bruins will look to give No. 7 Pepperdine a good fight.

Kevin Ker and the Bruins will look to give No. 7 Pepperdine a good fight. Maya Sugarman

After tough losses in the UC Santa Barbara Invitational and against USC, the men’s volleyball team looks to get a victory at home against No. 7 Pepperdine (0-2, 0-1 MPSF) in the 33rd annual Kilgour Cup tonight.

Coming off of a hard-fought four-set loss to the top-ranked Trojans in front of an electric Pauley Pavilion crowd on Wednesday, the No. 10 Bruins (3-1, 1-3) will have another chance to defend their home court in the same week.

“It’s a tough loss but we need to rebound and come back,” coach Al Scates said.

The Bruins will have to bounce back against a talented Pepperdine team.

“Pepperdine is another strong team,” Scates said. “They’re always one of the best blocking teams in the league, they don’t miss many serves, and they force you to side out. They serve easier than a lot of teams so their big blockers score a lot of points, that’s what they rely on,”

One positive for the Bruins is that they will not have to worry about former Pepperdine opposite Paul Carroll, an Australian national team player who now plays professionally.

“He carried that team for four years,” Scates said.

Though Carroll is no longer a cause for concern, Pepperdine does have returning talent. Scates noted outside hitter J.D. Schleppenbach as an important player. The redshirt senior has struggled in the Waves’ first two matches this season, but brings a lot of experience to the team.

“He’ll probably be carrying a big load for them,” he said.

UCLA is still trying to get back to the level they rose to before their break for finals and the holidays.

“We can’t practice the week before finals, we can’t practice during finals because that’s our offseason, so these guys had a month off,” Scates said. “We are not where we were at the end of fall practice.”

Scates knows what it takes for the team to get back to where they were before the break.

“It’s a matter of conditioning and repetitions,” he said. “We’re in our second week of practice right now, and we’re in league already.”

All in all, Scates is confident that his team will get back to its winning ways.

“It’s tough, but we’re going to improve, there’s no question about it,” Scates said.

Sophomore setter Kyle Caldwell believes the team showed intensity during the USC match, and is confident that they can defeat Pepperdine if they maintain that energy. After a close match against the Trojans, Caldwell thinks the team should look ahead to Pepperdine.

“All the games were real close,” Caldwell said. “The ones we won, we cut down our errors, cut down our missed serves. The games we lost, we missed a few serves for a little stretch, we missed a few hitting errors, a few missed calls, but we can’t dwell on it, we’ve just got to move on and hopefully bring that energy to the Pepperdine match.”

Because Pepperdine will be the team’s second opponent in three days, Scates will hold a light practice before the match.

“The guys that played went four sets, so I’ve got to have some legs under them when we play Friday,” Scates said.

Scates plans to use a similar lineup to the one that took the floor Wednesday, including rotating between Caldwell and senior Kevin Ker at setter.

“We’re using both setters right now, and that’s the way it’s going to be for a while,” Scates said. “Kyle is learning to set right now, and he’s going to be a force, but Kevin’s very good right now so we need both of them.”

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