The rematch of last season’s national championship failed to provide a different result for the Bruins.
No. 6 UCLA (5-2) lost to No. 1 Long Beach State (6-0) in straight sets by scores of 27-29, 22-25, 17-25.
The Bruins started off the game with multiple opportunities to win the first set of the rematch.
UCLA had two chances to win the set, leading by one point at 24-23 and 25-24. Coach John Speraw said the Bruins failed to disrupt the 49ers’ game plan.
“We were serving the ball really tough, but we weren’t doing a whole lot else to put pressure on them,” Speraw said. “I just don’t think we hit real well in any set.”
UCLA had 20 attacking errors to Long Beach State’s five, with the Bruins only hitting for .210 compared to the 49ers’ .429. Redshirt junior opposite Brandon Rattray led the Bruins with 10 kills but only hit for .174.
Long Beach State outside hitter TJ DeFalco led the 49ers with 13 kills while hitting for .500. Opposite Kyle Ensing was the 49ers’ leader in kills leading up to this game with 57 kills in five games, but the Bruins managed to hold him to six.
Senior setter Micah Ma’a said they tried to minimize Ensing’s influence in the game.
“I was choosing to go at Kyle Ensing to pull him out of his route,” Ma’a said.
The point disparity between UCLA and Long Beach State grew as the game progressed, with the Bruins losing each following set by a larger margin. They lost the second set by three points and the third set by eight.
Ma’a said a decrease in momentum played a role in the larger set differences.
“We lost some momentum,” Ma’a said. “Passing broke down a little bit. Serving broke down a little bit, and those things control the match.”
The Bruins had eight service aces to the 49ers’ three, but UCLA also had 19 service errors. Senior outside hitter Dylan Missry said the Bruins will continue to serve aggressively despite the errors.
“If we serve easy, they put it down our throat every time,” Missry said. “We need to be serving the ball 70-plus mph or we don’t have a shot to beat them. That’s the only thing that kept us in the national championship game last year.”
Speraw said he is not concerned about the service errors.
“I don’t care about errors,” Speraw said. “Service errors don’t correlate to winning and losing volleyball matches. What correlates to winning and losing volleyball matches is serving tough.”
Ma’a added aggression is an important part of UCLA’s identity.
“We want to be better, but we don’t want to be less aggressive,” Ma’a said. “That’s what we pride ourselves on.”
Speraw said he believes in the team’s ability to improve despite the loss.
“If we can get a little better on the volleyball court, increase our confidence in how we’re playing the game and learn about some of these mental skills that will help us respond a little better, then I think we’ll be in a good place down the road,” Speraw said.
UCLA will travel to La Jolla to face UC San Diego on Friday.