The Bruins will face the Trojans to determine who will get a chance at the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
No. 2 seed UCLA men’s volleyball (19-8, 8-4 MPSF) will match up against No. 3 seed USC (17-9, 7-5) in the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament Thursday at Pepperdine’s Firestone Fieldhouse.
The two teams split the regular season series, with the home team winning both times the teams faced off.
Sophomore middle blocker Grant Maleski said the Bruins will try to contain the Trojans’ athleticism.
“(USC has) a lot of fast players that they could play to the pin,” Maleski said. “If we get them out of position, that gives us a couple more seconds to get over and block. If we can take away from their advantages, which are speed and height, then we’ll be in a good spot.”
The Bruins won the first meeting of the season in straight sets after hitting for a clip of .420 and logging 46 kills on 12 hitting errors. UCLA dropped the second matchup in five sets after it hit for .342 and recorded 16 hitting errors.
Redshirt junior opposite Brandon Rattray said the regular season loss does not faze him.
“We didn’t play our best volleyball,” Rattray said. “(The match) could’ve gone either way. We’re not worried about it at all.”
USC has gone 6-1 in its last seven matches, which included a win against No. 2-ranked Long Beach State – the Trojans were the only team to claim a win over the 49ers this season. USC had a hitting percentage of .493 against Long Beach State and has hit for over .350 four separate times over the seven-game stretch.
Coach John Speraw said he is not as anxious about the result of this match as much as he is concerned about the overall play of UCLA.
“I’m not worried about winning or losing as much as I’m worried about how this group of players with this particular lineup plays,” Speraw said. “If we can just play a more smooth volleyball match, then we just go play USC and see what happens.”
Speraw said the smoothness will come as the team builds more chemistry.
“That smoothness comes with time and training,” Speraw said. “The hard part is that we’ve continued to have to maneuver lineups. That’s what I want (to answer) for the end of this year: Can we keep playing volleyball long enough for us to gain a little more cohesion that will get us into these big matches?”
The winner of this match will play the winner of the match between No. 1 seed Pepperdine and No. 5 seed Brigham Young in the MPSF conference tournament final Saturday.