Bruins poise to race past Antelopes in men’s volleyball matchup
UCLA men’s volleyball has a chance to further improve its undefeated Mountain Pacific Sports Federation record. UCLA defeated Pepperdine on Wednesday to claim sole ownership of the No. 1 spot in conference standings. (Xuxin Zhang/Daily Bruin)
March 1, 2019 12:10 a.m.
The Bruins have a chance to keep their top spot in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
No. 6 UCLA men’s volleyball (13-4, 5-0 MPSF) will face Grand Canyon (7-10, 0-5) on Friday night at Antelope Gymnasium in Phoenix.
This will be the first match of the season between the Bruins and the Antelopes.
“Grand Canyon is a good team, so we’re going to have to come out and play our best game to beat them, and we will,” said redshirt junior opposite Brandon Rattray.
UCLA defeated Grand Canyon in both of its matchups last season, holding them below a .300 hitting percentage in each match. The Bruins averaged seven aces and 13 blocks in the two matches, compared to the Antelopes’ 1.5 aces and 4.8 blocks.
Grand Canyon has a 3-2 home record this season, despite losing its last five games, all against conference opponents. The Antelopes are led by outside hitter Christian Janke, who has posted a team-high 213 kills this season. As a team, Grand Canyon has averaged 2.2 aces, 7.1 blocks, and a .155 hitting percentage across their five-game losing streak.
UCLA currently holds sole possession of the No. 1 spot in conference standings after defeating No. 4 Pepperdine (11-3, 4-1) in five sets Wednesday night. Junior outside hitter Austin Matautia – who led the Bruins with a career-high 22 kills against the Waves – said UCLA has to stay focused.
“Anyone could beat us and any time we play we have to come in with our A-game and if we don’t then we’re vulnerable,” Matautia said.
The Bruins have averaged eight aces, 7.7 blocks and a .376 hitting percentage in their last three games. Rattray – who has recorded a team-high 177 kills on the season – said UCLA must continue to be aggressive in order to carry on its recent success.
“We have to keep winning,” Rattray said. “Every game from here on out, even the teams we played that aren’t as great, they’re very important matches. Any night, any given team can come out and play great, so we have to be on our toes and continue to train really hard and keep moving forward.”
UCLA coach John Speraw said the Bruins have to remain poised with seven remaining conference matches on their schedule, five of which are away games.
“We just have to go to Grand Canyon and play well,” Speraw said. “We have to make sure that we’re focused. Obviously now we have a little bit of an advantage, but that means we have to execute on it. We just can’t all of a sudden think that this is over. We have more work to do.”