The Bruins will travel to the Midwest to face two top-10 opponents this week.
No. 5 UCLA (6-2) will play No. 7 Loyola Chicago (6-2) and No. 10 Lewis (6-3) on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
Coach John Speraw said the Bruins are looking to improve passing and hitting on this road trip.
“I don’t think our offense has been that sharp,” Speraw said. “Our ability to pass the ball as well as we can, our ability to get out of difficult situations with better high ball hitting – that will be important.”
UCLA first plays a Loyola team that has kept all but one of its opponents under a .300 hitting percentage, highlighted by a game in which it held Mount Olive to a -.093 hitting percentage.
Loyola middle blocker Paul Narup is tied for sixth in the nation for blocks per set, with 1.286.
Senior setter Micah Ma’a said the Bruins will try to minimize Narup’s impact by using multiple attackers.
“When we have a lot of guys coming down the pipe, we got three guys and a (back row quick), hopefully it’ll slow (Narup) down and make him think a lot more,” Ma’a said.
Redshirt junior opposite Brandon Rattray said Narup does not intimidate him.
“We can’t be scared of (Narup),” Rattray said. “We have to attack him fully. He hasn’t seen our team play, so he has it coming for him.”
Following the Loyola match, UCLA will face Lewis in Romeoville, Illinois.
Lewis middle blocker Tyler Mitchem leads his team with 83 kills, with a .511 hitting percentage.
“We’re going to have to block (Mitchem),” Rattray said. “We’re going to have to read his tendencies through the scouting report. We just got to get a lot of touches, not necessarily big stuff blocks. Our offense is so strong that all we need to do is get a couple touches.”
Lewis had its two worst hitting games this season in two of its three losses, hitting for .104 against No. 4 UC Irvine and .244 against No. 6 Pepperdine.
Speraw said the Bruins must get better on both defense and offense to beat the Flyers.
“It’s cliche for coaches to talk about how they’re more concerned about their side of the net,” Speraw said. “But, at this point, there’s just so much that we need to work on on our side that will contribute to our offensive and defensive efforts.”
However, Rattray said UCLA will emphasize defense against Lewis.
“Our offense is so strong,” Rattray said. “We don’t really need to focus too much on our offense. That will just come as is, but we really got to focus on our defense.”