Bruins sink below .500 after succumbing to Waves
Sophomore middle blocker Mitch Stahl registered four kills and hit for .333 against No. 3 Pepperdine. (Max Himmelrich/Daily Bruin)
|No. 3 Pepperdine||3|
|No. 12 UCLA||0|
April 8, 2015 7:57 a.m.
UCLA men’s volleyball already knew that it had a challenge ahead when it made the short drive to Malibu on Tuesday to face conference powerhouse Pepperdine University.
Then it ran into itself.
On a night when the biggest obstacle for the Bruins should have been the team standing across the court, it was instead their own errors that stood in the way.
No. 12 UCLA (11-12, 7-12 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) was swept 3-0 by No. 3 Pepperdine (22-4, 17-4) for the second time this season, dropping their fourth straight match and falling below .500 in regular season play for the first time since February 2011.
The Bruins improved significantly over the course of their two-match season series, but those improvements weren’t enough to defeat the veteran Waves. In January, UCLA dropped a stunning first set by the score of 25-10 before losing the final sets by only seven total points. On Tuesday, the team continued fighting back.
All three sets were back and forth as the teams were tied at either 16- or 17-all. Mistakes, however, allowed the Waves to hold off the upset-hungry Bruins every time (25-21, 25-21, 25-19).
The biggest problem for the visitors came at the service line.
“I’ve always been a coach who doesn’t want to talk about errors, because I want my team to be aggressive,” said coach John Speraw. “I want them to go out there, play hard and play fearlessly. At the end of the day, tonight we made too many hitting and serving errors unforced. We didn’t put the pressure on them.”
The Bruins have averaged 4.6 service errors per set this season, but they committed 20 on Tuesday night alone – many of them rally-killers late in the sets.
“I thought we played pretty well – we passed a lot better than normal,” said freshman outside hitter J.T. Hatch. “But we just made a couple errors here and there toward the end, and they just pulled away.”
Combined with a sluggish hitting night, when UCLA hit just .211, there was no escaping the hole that it dug itself into.
Hatch led the team with 10 kills and redshirt junior middle blocker Trent Kersten hit .385, but the offense stalled behind 14 hitting errors.
In the big picture, Tuesday night was a continuation of the Bruins’ struggles against the MPSF elite. In matches against teams currently ranked above them, they are 1-12, with their lone win over No. 7 USC in February.
“I think we’ve had some rough matches here in the past couple weeks – we’re down a little bit – but it’s playoff time,” said sophomore middle blocker Mitch Stahl. “We all have our heads up, and I think that we’re gonna come into the next couple matches, earn a spot in the playoffs and have a shot at the No. 1 or 2 seed.”
The team’s next match will be yet another challenge as UCLA returns home to face No. 3 UC Irvine. The Anteaters (22-4, 16-3) swept the Bruins in February.