Prior to Wednesday night, no Bruin had averaged more than five kills per set in a match this season.
Senior opposite Christian Hessenauer finished averaging six kills per set in No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball’s (18-5, 6-2 MPSF) three-set sweep of No. 14 Concordia Irvine (10-10, 3-3 Pacwest) on Wednesday night. This was the Bruins’ 10th sweep of the season and second three-set win over the Eagles.
Hessenauer’s 18 kills are the most in a three-set match in his career and his third most this season.
The Bruins have been emphasizing the setter-hitter connection in practice in recent weeks, and coach John Speraw said he has seen improvement in the area.
“There were a couple (of) miscommunication plays and we’ll have to take a look at some routes,” Speraw said. “I think in general, the sets … were in pretty good places.”
Hessenauer said Micah Ma’a has been putting in extra work on his setting and connection with his hitters. The junior setter had 37 assists on the night and added four kills on zero errors.
Senior outside hitter Jake Arnitz and junior outside hitter Dylan Missry joined Hessenauer in double-digit kills with 10 each. Freshman middle blocker Ian Parish stepped in for redshirt senior middle blocker Oliver Martin and hit .667 for four kills.
After a close first set with 14 ties and four lead changes that ended 25-22, the Bruins took control in the middle of the second set and never trailed again.
A 7-point run – highlighted by two aces from senior setter Eric Matheis and two kills each by Arnitz and Hessenauer – closed out the second set 25-15.
“The most important thing is (Matheis) got us a couple digs and gave us some opportunities while he was serving,” Speraw said. “Anytime that our team captain can come in and contribute in any way is wonderful for us.”
UCLA then maintained a 5-point lead through the majority of the third set and took the match 25-19. Matheis said the Bruins defended well in the last two sets.
“When you’re able to play good defense behind our block, when you can transition well,” Matheis said. “If you can do that then you’re going to win a lot of matches.”
This success marks UCLA’s third consecutive win after the Bruins losing four of five games.
“There’s still things here and there we can get better at, but for the most part, we’re going on an upward trend and I think it’s looking good for us,” Matheis said. “I think we’re where we want to be.”
UCLA will play the fourth game in a five-game home stand Friday against Grand Canyon, whom the Bruins swept in February.