Junior middle blocker Daenan Gyimah led the Bruins on his birthday to their first win against a ranked opponent this year.
No. 6 UCLA (5-1) beat No. 12 UC Santa Barbara (3-3) in straight sets Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion by scores of 25-20, 25-16, 25-21.
Gyimah hit for .714 after breaking the Bruins’ hitting percentage record two games ago against McKendree, with a percentage of .917. Gyimah said a change in the game plan has assisted his recent success.
“As much as I hate this new offense we’re running, it’s working,” Gyimah said. “We approach the exact same way every time, but then I jump one way or the other. (Opponents) have to guess which way I’m jumping, and they never guess right.”
Coach John Speraw said the new offense has been a learning experience for Gyimah.
“We’re asking him to do something different and new,” Speraw said. “Usually when that happens, you see a decrease in performance. (Gyimah’s) had some matches that haven’t been super clean, but he’s had some great matches too.
The Bruins led by eight points at 19-11 in the first set, but allowed the Gauchos to come back within three points before the Bruins finally won the set 25-20. Speraw said UCSB’s serving allowed them to get back in the set.
“They started serving really well,” Speraw said. “They put as much pressure on us as we were putting on them. That first set was really all about the service game.”
Senior setter Micah Ma’a’s serving enabled the Bruins to go on a 6-0 run in the first set. Speraw said Ma’a’s serving has been one of his strengths.
“He plays with quite a bit of variety,” Speraw said. “Ma’a’s able to cut it and hit it where he wants. It makes it very uncertain for receivers to know what he is doing.”
The Bruins had a season-low 15 service errors, after having 29 or more in two of their first five games. Ma’a led the team with two service aces but said the team has confidence in all of their servers.
“Whoever you are, we’re going to try our best to keep you on the line,” Ma’a said. “It was just me tonight.”
Gyimah said a confident mindset helped them serve better.
“Our mindset was pretty good tonight: Just kill,” Gyimah said. “Tonight we went in saying we do not care if we get errors.”
Speraw said better serving was due to more practice but also said the team has a more assertive mentality.
“The guys are mindful of (serving),” Speraw said. “They’ve been very focused in training. It’s an area we’re going to have to be aggressive. Tonight it worked out.”
UCLA will play No. 1 Long Beach State on Saturday in Pauley Pavilion in a rematch of last season’s national championship.