The Bruins concluded a round of conference matches with a victory to remain undefeated in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play.
No. 6 UCLA men’s volleyball (14-4, 6-0 MPSF) defeated Grand Canyon (7-11, 0-6 MPSF) 3-1 on Friday at the Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix. The Bruins have defeated every team in the MPSF and will play each team once more this season.
“It means a lot to be undefeated at the halfway point of conference play,” said redshirt sophomore outside hitter Sam Kobrine. “We know how competitive every team is, especially Grand Canyon, so it means a lot knowing that we were able to grind out these wins.”
Redshirt junior opposite Brandon Rattray said despite the win, the Bruins lacked offensive cohesion at times.
“The connection was just a little off,” Rattray said. “The adjustments just weren’t necessarily the greatest, from myself in particular. (Grand Canyon) blocked me quite a bit. Our tempo was just a little off tonight.”
The Bruins posted 26 attacking errors – their second-highest single-game mark of the season – and were blocked 12 times, the third-most blocks by any of the Bruins’ opponents this year.
Rattray led the Bruins with 15 kills, tallied a season-high eight attacking errors and hit for .200 – his fourth-lowest efficiency mark of the season.
The Bruins posted 26 service errors and tallied a season-low one service ace. Rattray said the Antelope fans’ presence contributed to the Bruins’ discomfort at the service line and forced them to change their approach.
“Our serving just wasn’t clicking,” Rattray said. “There were a lot of hecklers, and I think that got to us a little bit. We just weren’t able to get in the groove like we normally do, so we went to the float serve.”
Kobrine said the transition to softer serving was a strategic move that played in UCLA’s favor.
“We were scoring a lot more points off our float serve and we made a lot less errors,” Kobrine said. “So really, it was giving our blocking and our defense a chance to make a good play on the ball.”
The Antelopes’ lone set win came in the second set when they hit .333 and held the Bruins to a mark of .241. The 25-21 win was Grand Canyon’s second set win against UCLA in program history.
“(Grand Canyon) played very good defense in the second set,” Kobrine said. “We didn’t adapt well to some of their strategic serving. They went with a lot of short serves, which kind of got us out of rhythm and contributed to a lot of missed opportunities.”
The Bruins won the next two sets 25-23 and 25-23 to claim the match and remain undefeated all-time against the Antelopes. UCLA – which controls sole possession of first place in the MPSF – will host the MPSF tournament if it wins the rest of its conference matches.
“It’ll be incredibly important for us to win out,” Kobrine said. “We know how tough it is to play at BYU (the host of last year’s tournament). It would be a real advantage for us to win out and have it at home, having a familiar gym and a familiar environment.”
The Bruins will compete in two nonconference matches before beginning the second half of MPSF play. UCLA will face Ohio State on Friday and Penn State on Saturday in the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten Challenge hosted by USC at the Galen Center.