An undefeated conference record will be on the line in the Bruins’ next two games.
No. 6 UCLA men’s volleyball (11-4, 3-0 MPSF) will face crosstown rival No. 14 USC (7-6, 1-2) on Sunday in Pauley Pavilion.
Coach John Speraw said this season’s USC team is stronger than last season’s.
“I know for sure it’s going to be a hard-fought match,” Speraw said. “USC is significantly better than last year and so we know we’re in for a real battle.”
USC has come within one win of its win total from last season, posting seven wins so far this season.
The Trojans are led by outside hitters Jack Wyett and Ryan Moss, who lead their team with 151 and 148 kills, respectively. USC is also the only team to claim a set off undefeated reigning champion, No. 1 Long Beach State.
Junior outside hitter Austin Matautia said USC will bring higher levels of intensity due to the nature of a rivalry game.
“I’d expect it to be a pretty high-energy game, knowing that we’re playing USC,” Matautia said. “They’re going to come out pretty pumped up so we have to make sure we play our own game. Just focus on one-point volleyball, and even if we’re down, just know that we have the capability of coming back and winning.”
UCLA will remain at home after the rivalry game to face No. 4 Pepperdine (10-2, 3-0 MPSF) on Wednesday in a game that could impact postseason seedings.
Pepperdine and UCLA are tied for first in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference, both with unblemished conference records. Speraw said the match could help the Bruins solidify their standing in the conference.
“Now that our conference is significantly smaller than it was a few years ago, I feel like (every team) matters,” Speraw said. “You get a loss and there’s just not a lot of opportunities to make up ground on teams. These are all big matches, every single one of them.”
Redshirt junior opposite Brandon Rattray said the Pepperdine game is a must-win for UCLA.
“We (have) got to win out,” Rattray said. “We (have) got to win the conference, so it is a very important match.”
Pepperdine is currently on a five-game win streak. Two of the Waves’ outside hitters – David Wieczorek and Michael Wexter – recorded 17 and 19 kills, respectively, in their most recent win against Grand Canyon. The duo hit for .238 and .325, respectively. Rattray said he is looking forward to playing the matches at home.
“I’m really excited playing USC on Sunday and Pepperdine on Wednesday,” Rattray said. “It’s a good lineup, a good couple of games we’ve got here, back to back. We’re going to go out there and take it to them.”