The Bruins capped off the first week of 2019 with back-to-back wins.
No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (2-0) defeated unranked Princeton (0-4) and UC San Diego (0-2) at home by scores of 3-0 and 3-1, respectively.
Coach John Speraw said the team has room for improvement after the first two games, with nine players on the 24-man roster being freshmen or transfer students.
“My impressions are that (we have) a great group of guys and the chemistry is great, but there’s tons we need to improve on,” Speraw said. “We do have some guys that are new to the program, so there’s a huge learning curve and not enough time to have gone through everything.”
UCLA hit for .381 against Princeton and recorded 38 kills to its opponent’s 26. Redshirt junior opposite Brandon Rattray posted 15 kills against the Tigers and hit for .348. Rattray transferred to UCLA from the Hawai’i prior to the season starting.
Rattray was joined in the starting lineup against UC San Diego by junior outside hitter Austin Matautia, also a Hawai’i transfer. Matautia said he is working to learn the new system early on in the season.
“It’s a whole different system compared to what I’m used to playing,” Matautia said. “We’ve just got to keep our foot on the pedal. I don’t think we’ve necessarily played our best yet and I guess that’s a good thing as the season is just starting.”
The Bruins finished the match against the Tigers with set scores of 25-17, 26-24 and 25-18. Princeton was held to a .238 team hitting percentage and was led in scoring by opposite George Huhmann, who finished the match with 11 kills. UCLA also finished the match with 24 digs, whereas Princeton totaled eight.
Senior setter Micah Ma’a said that with a lot of new faces, players are figuring out where they fit in the team and he has noted some strengths the new group has to offer.
“I think we can serve the ball pretty well, it’s just going to be about if we can be consistently serving the ball really well,” Ma’a said. “Besides that, we’re going to try to be scrappy behind it so that we can keep our serves on the line.”
UCLA logged 20 aces in the first two matches of the season, including 11 versus UC San Diego. The Bruins also finished the match against the Tritons with 12 total blocks.
UCLA took the first two sets 25-20 and 25-13 against UC San Diego. However, the Tritons took the third set 25-23, despite only hitting for .120 compared to UCLA’s .400.
“You probably won’t see another set like that this season where we lose like that,” Speraw said. “We had nine service errors and that’s a big part of it, and we had a bunch of egregiously bad decisions on defense.”
The Bruins finished the match with three players recording double-digit kills. Senior outside hitter Dylan Missry, Rattray and junior middle blocker Daenan Gyimah tallied 16, 13 and 10 kills, respectively.
Speraw said the team can draw positives from close early-season sets.
“You watch out there and a lot of what is costing us points are things that we can solve in time, so I’m optimistic even though at times I’m obviously frustrated with some things,” Speraw said. “The nice part is we win and learn. If you can survive a match playing like we played tonight then that can be a win in the long run.”
UCLA will next travel to face CSUN on Wednesday.