Monday, March 30

Men’s volleyball upset by unranked USC in five-setter

Christian Hessenauer led the Bruins with a career-high 22 kills. Despite the senior opposite's performance, No. 3 UCLA fell to unranked USC on Saturday night. (Jenna Smith/Daily Bruin)

UCLA men’s volleyball had not lost to an unranked team since 2014.

On Saturday, USC broke that streak.

The Trojans (7-17, 3-7 MPSF) took down the No. 3 Bruins (20-6, 7-3) in five sets by scores of 18-25, 25-23, 25-23, 19-25, 15-11.

UCLA, which was previously riding a five-game win streak, came out dominant in the first set, outhitting USC .381 to .097 and leading by as many as 9 points.

“We sort of coasted that first set and they didn’t do anything to fight back, but in the second set they started fighting back,” said sophomore middle blocker Daenan Gyimah.

In sets two and three, the Bruins continued to hit well, recording hitting percentages of .464 and .357, respectively. However, USC improved to match UCLA and took both sets by a close margin.

The Bruins were able to force a fifth game by winning the fourth but were unable to complete the comeback. Six of the Trojans’ points in the decisive set were off of unforced errors – including four hitting errors by senior outside hitter Jake Arnitz.

The Bruins also struggled in serve receive at crucial points.

“They were serving right in the middle, and that’s one of our systems that we need to work on,” Gyimah said.

Despite losing the match, UCLA still managed to outhit USC, posting a hitting percentage of .385 compared to the Trojans’ .272. Senior opposite Christian Hessenauer posted a career-high 22 kills.

“At the end of the day, we need to be a much more diverse team,” said coach John Speraw. “We can’t rely on our serves to score points. … We hit well, but you take away that first set and they probably hit great too. We can’t let that team hit as well as they did right there.”

The last time the two teams faced off, USC outside hitter Gianluca Grasso did not play and UCLA was able to come away with a sweep. However, this time around, Grasso led the Trojans with 20 kills, along with two blocks and two aces.

“(Grasso) wasn’t there last time. … He’s obviously a great player who made a difference for them, especially with his serve,” Speraw said.

The win was the Trojan’s first over a ranked opponent this season.

“They were playing the game of their life,” Gyimah said. “They got every single touch that they could have; they really came out to play. We came out to play the first set and died down in the second and that came back to hurt us.”

UCLA will next face Stanford at home Thursday.

Assistant Sports editor

Angus is an assistant Sports editor. She was previously a reporter for the women's water polo, women's volleyball and men's volleyball beats.

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