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Men’s volleyball’s aggressive serving approach leads to many errors but also aces

Senior outside hitter Austin Matautia had three service errors against No. 10 Princeton, but No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball held on to stay undefeated over their first three games. (Daanish Bhatti/Daily Bruin)

By Samuel In

Jan. 8, 2020 2:01 a.m.

Through three games, the Bruins have already broken last season’s mark for most service errors in a match.

No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (3-0) tallied up 35 service errors against No. 10 Princeton on Monday, in comparison to last year’s season-high 31 against BYU. Against the Tigers, the Bruins ended up dropping the third set 35-33 after 13 service errors in the set, five of which came on match point.

Senior outside hitter Austin Matautia said coach John Speraw talked to the team about staying calm at the service line, even with the pressure to close out the match.

“(Speraw) told us to take it one point at a time – even though we have match point imagine if it’s 15-15 in the first set or 0-0, because we were already doing just fine before (match point),” Matautia said. “A lot of us were getting antsy to end the game.”

UCLA recorded 22 service errors to begin the season against Daemen College and 24 against George Mason. The Bruins are averaging 7.4 service errors per set this season after averaging 5.7 last season, but are also averaging 2.7 service aces per set compared to 1.7.

Speraw said overthinking and nerves are often the cause of service errors.

“It’s like emotions – (service errors) are contagious,” Speraw said. “When service errors start going and you start thinking, ‘Gosh, some other guys missed it.’ Or maybe, ‘I missed my previous few.’ Or you start thinking about anything other than the task at hand. We just need to do a better job at (fixing) that.”

Despite the service errors, UCLA has 30 service aces compared to its opponents’ nine.

Speraw said the Bruins need to continue serving aggressively even with the increase in serving errors.

“(The players) could’ve been discouraged, and I think at one point in the middle of the match (against Princeton) they probably were,” Speraw said. “We just got to help them be free and that’s on me.”

Senior middle blocker Daenan Gyimah leads the Bruins with 18 service errors – six more than the next player – but is also second in service aces with six. He said the win against George Mason can be attributed to serving and hitting with confidence.

“We just had great poise and resolve,” Gyimah said. “We were ready to take the risky swing which is something we’ve practiced. Risks pay off but playing safe never pays off.”

The Bruins graduated last season’s service ace leader, setter Micah Ma’a, who led UCLA with 67 service aces and was second in the nation in service aces per set with .638. Gyimah had the second most service aces with 25, but led UCLA in service errors with 116.

UCLA will next face UC San Diego on Jan. 17, at the Rimac Arena in La Jolla, California.

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Samuel In | Senior staff
In is currently a senior staff videographer and sports writer. He was previously an Assistant Video producer and a contributor on the men's volleyball and women's soccer beats. He is a fourth-year communications major.
In is currently a senior staff videographer and sports writer. He was previously an Assistant Video producer and a contributor on the men's volleyball and women's soccer beats. He is a fourth-year communications major.
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