UCLA men’s volleyball falls to CSUN in back-and-forth matchup
Sophomore outside hitter Dylan Missry had a career-high 21 kills and led the Bruins, though they lost for only the 14th time in team history to Cal State Northridge. (Grace Zhu/Daily Bruin)
Feb. 15, 2017 11:59 p.m.
The UCLA men’s volleyball team has lost its offensive firepower of late, and it’s been showing.
“Literally, we’re just not killing the ball,” said coach John Speraw. “We lost one guy off the team, and we become an average offensive team.”
That one guy is junior outside hitter Jake Arnitz, who has sat the past seven matches out due to a foot injury, and he looked on as No. 5 UCLA (10-5, 7-4 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) was upset by No. 14 Cal State Northridge (10-5, 3-5) in a five-set thriller Wednesday.
The Bruins have only lost to the Matadors 14 times out of their 84 game history. Wednesday evening was CSUN’s first win in the past five matchups, with its last victory in 2014.
CSUN took an early lead 6-0 in the first set, thanks to a string of aces from Schylar Lillethorup.
“We just kind of let (Lillethorup) abuse us in the first part of that game, which is tough to come back from,” said sophomore outside hitter Dylan Missry, who led the team offensively with 21 kills on the night.
After the Bruins finally stopped the Matadors, senior setter Hagen Smith missed the first serve in response.
Still, the Bruins began to claw back from a 3-11 deficit, and cleaned up their passing to tie things up at 12. UCLA was the first team to 20, thanks to a kill from Missry, and took the first set 25-20.
Set two didn’t start off with the same point disparity, but it didn’t end well for the Bruins. Senior middle blocker Mitch Stahl tallied three service aces before severely injuring his ankle. The veteran hitter was helped off the court with two points left for the Matadors to claim the equalizer.
“Mitch did not look okay,” Speraw said. “Based on what I saw, I think he’s out for a long time. It hasn’t been our year for injuries.”
Redshirt juniors Oliver Martin and Eric Sprague came in for Gyimah and Stahl in the middle, and CSUN captured set two 25-21.
The Bruins pulled off a dominant performance in set three with 15 and eight kills from Missry and junior outside hitter JT Hatch respectively, and despite an offensive push from the Matadors, UCLA finished it off 25-20 with a stuff block from Martin and Smith.
CSUN went on a four-point run in the fourth set, from which the Bruins eventually fought back to tie things at 12 and again at 22.
It wasn’t enough to finish the game, however. The Matadors edged the home team out 25-23 to push the game to a fifth set, hitting .200 over UCLA’s .079.
“It’s remarkable that we hit that and almost pulled that off,” Speraw said. “(CSUN) won that set hitting .200. That’s not the way a set should go.”
CSUN came out firing on all cylinders in the final set, establishing a 6-0 lead while Speraw called two time-outs for the Bruins. With a series of errors, UCLA watched its six point deficit of 3-9 become a hole too big to overcome.
“I felt like our mentality was actually good,” Missry said. “But they were playing good volleyball and getting their points in transition, so it was easier said than done.”
The Matadors clinched the final set 15-9, and upset the Bruins on their home court.
“We knew they were going to come in trying to rip the ball,” said senior outside hitter Michael Fisher. “They just outworked us tonight.”
UCLA will host No. 2 Long Beach State next at 4:00 p.m. Saturday.