The Bruins protected their undefeated conference record with a straight-set victory.
No. 6 UCLA (12-4, 4-0 MPSF) defeated No. 14 USC (7-7, 1-3) 3-0 on Sunday night at Pauley Pavilion. The win marked the Bruins’ fourth straight conference win to remain tied atop the MPSF with No. 4 Pepperdine, which is also 4-0.
“We brought the energy tonight,” said redshirt junior opposite Brandon Rattray. “UCLA versus USC is a big rivalry, so we knew we had to come out tonight and fire it up. The service pressure from us was great and the blocking was pretty solid.”
Rattray led the Bruins with 17 kills and posted his most efficient attacking game of the season, hitting .583.
Rattray said his offensive performance stemmed from strong chemistry between him and senior setter Micah Ma’a.
“We’ve been working on some new connection stuff, (Ma’a) and I,” Rattray said. “(Ma’a) was putting the ball in the right spot tonight and the blocking just wasn’t there, so we just hammered it home.”
The Bruins tallied 12 service aces against the Trojans, their second-highest mark of the season. Coach John Speraw said USC’s errors aided UCLA’s approach from the service line.
“Obviously they didn’t have their best passing night,” Speraw said. “I don’t think some of those aces go down versus Long Beach and Hawai’i, so I think we’re going to have to continue to figure out ways to score behind our serve.”
Ma’a said strong passing helped the Bruins control the match.
“We passed really well,” Ma’a said. “It’s kind of been a staple of our offense, going down the middle of the court. We needed to stay in system for that, and the passers did an amazing job.”
Speraw said the Bruins’ passing aided junior middle blocker Daenan Gyimah’s offensive approach.
“I thought we passed well enough to (Gyimah) a good number of balls,” Speraw said.
Gyimah hit for .722 and posted 14 kills. Sunday’s performance brought Gyimah’s season hitting percentage to .554, the highest percentage in the nation.
The Trojans’ largest lead of the night was a margin of two points, with the score 14-12 in the second set and 9-7 and 10-8 in the third set.
Rattray said the Bruins were able to maintain the lead for most of the night by remaining calm, even when the score was close.
“We could be down five or six, seven points and we would stay nice and poised,” Rattray said. “We just know that we have enough talent and that we can push through.”
Ma’a said the win put UCLA in a positive state of mind heading into Wednesday’s match against Pepperdine.
“It helps our confidence for sure,” Ma’a said. “We’ve put two pretty clean wins back to back together, which helps our confidence, our trust and some of our connections.”
The Bruins will host the Waves on Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion at 7 p.m.