The Bruins are one win from an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
No. 2-seeded UCLA men’s volleyball (24-6, 9-3 MPSF) beat No. 4-seeded Concordia (16-15, 5-7) in four sets Thursday night, winning the last three sets in a row 25-21, 26-24, 25-18.
The Bruins dropped the first set, losing 28-26 after the Eagles fought off three set points to extend the set. UCLA hit for .188 as a team with eight errors to Concordia’s .281 and six errors in the first set. Junior outside hitter Dylan Missry said the Eagles impressed in the early stages of the game.
“They passed pretty well and they blocked by closing the block really well,” Missry said. “Their middles moved really fast so we didn’t have that many really good opportunities. They were stumping us a little bit.”
The first set was the only time this season the Eagles had taken a set from the Bruins. UCLA stayed perfect in the all-time series against Concordia, recording its fifth win in as many games.
Serving proved to be a problem in Provo, Utah, with only five aces between the two teams. In its past two matches against Concordia, UCLA had a 9-1 advantage in aces. The Bruins only had three aces in this match, well below their 6.7 average in their seven matches prior.
Blocking contributed to the Bruins’ win, with 12 blocks to the Eagles’ four. Concordia came into the match as the No. 3 blocking team in the country, averaging 2.66 blocks per set. Coach John Speraw said the blocking made up for the lack of strong serves.
“We had to block tonight to win because we weren’t serving like we normally do,” Speraw said. “There were some guys that were struggling a little bit; it’s a difficult place to come and play. I think we were trying to find different ways to win and the block was one of those ways.”
After the first set, the Bruins controlled the rest of the match, hitting for .409 as a team in the later sets to the Eagles’ .261. Sophomore middle blocker Daenan Gyimah led UCLA with 16 kills and a .571 hitting percentage. Gyimah said he improved as the game progressed.
“I told (junior setter Micah Ma’a) that even though I wasn’t hitting that well early on, (to) just keep coming to me and I’ll figure it out,” Gyimah said. “I just wasn’t getting enough the right way, but I told him I’ll figure it out.”
Outside hitter Raymond Barsemian entered the match as the Eagles’ leader in kills, with 344. UCLA held him to a .233 hitting percentage, despite his having 18 kills.
“He is a super physical guy,” Missry said. “He hit for .233, which is OK. We made a lot of better moves with our hands to slow a lot of people down. We did an all right job against him, good enough to win.”
UCLA will face No. 1-seeded BYU (21-6, 10-2) in the championship match. The Bruins swept the Cougars in their previous meeting at Pauley Pavilion. Missry said UCLA expects a tough match.
“They’re going to want some vengeance because we beat them pretty good back in Pauley a couple weeks ago,” Missry said. “So they’re going to come out and give us everything they have.”