Men’s volleyball enters second half of season with USC matchup
UCLA men’s volleyball travels across the city to face USC for the second time this season. The Bruins beat the Trojans in four sets when they met at Pauley Pavilion in January. (Hannah Ye/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Saturday, 8 p.m.
By Phil Share
Feb. 26, 2016 12:42 a.m.
The men’s volleyball team is looking for its first season sweep of USC since the 2013 season.
The No. 4 Bruins (14-3, 10-3 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) will visit the unranked Trojans (3-12, 3-10) Saturday night. UCLA, coming off of a Wednesday night sweep of No. 15 Cal Baptist at home, is well aware of the significance of its crosstown rivalry, even though USC is in the midst of a rough season.
“When we played them here it was fun,” said freshman libero Davis Gillett. “As standings say, they’re not as good this year, but that game is always a good match, and they’re going to bring it so it’s going to be fun.”
A Trojan victory in this rivalry has the ability to serve as a silver lining for USC, a team that has not had much to be happy about this season.
“If you’re playing at UCLA or USC and you’re not having the season you’d hope to have, one thing you can do is walk away with your head up a little bit if you beat the crosstown rival,” said coach John Speraw.
The crosstown rivals’ first matchup earlier this season finished with a four-set USC loss in Pauley Pavilion, which capped off a six-game losing streak to start the season for the Trojans. That loss may prove to be a major motivation for the Trojans going into Saturday night.
“They’re proud and they’re a good volleyball team that’s been good the last number of years, and they’re in an unfamiliar position,” Speraw said. “So they’re not going to be happy about it, and they’re going to come out and play hard.”
The Bruins find themselves one game behind the MPSF-leading Long Beach State 49ers in the standings. As the team moves forward with the conference and NCAA tournaments approaching, finishing strong is a must for UCLA.
“At this point in the season we’re starting to think tactically but also emotionally,” said redshirt sophomore middle blocker Eric Sprague. “Since (we lost to) Stanford we’ve done a lot of growing in that regard – working together and picking each other up.”
If the Bruins are to finish the season on a high note, they will have to cope with four more matches against the teams above them in the conference and national rankings – No. 1 Long Beach State, No. 2 BYU, and No. 3 Stanford. It certainly does help, though, that the sprint to the finish begins against USC.