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Men’s volleyball focuses on consistency, stays optimistic despite difficulties

Senior middle blocker Daenan Gyimah missed a month of game action for No. 8 UCLA men’s volleyball. Since his return, the Bruins have failed to win a single set. (Amy Dixon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Jake Greenberg-Bell

Feb. 13, 2020 1:07 a.m.

Following a win over a previously undefeated opponent, the Bruins have failed to win a single set.

When it traveled to face off against No. 4 Long Beach State on Feb. 1, No. 8 UCLA men’s volleyball (5-5, 0-2 MPSF) set season highs with 34 digs and 22 block assists. Seven days later, playing against No. 11 Stanford, UCLA was swept and set season lows in the exact same statistical categories.

“I think right now we’re just playing very volatile so we have to figure out how to play more steady,” said redshirt senior middle blocker Matt Younggren. “We have to find a way to become more consistent. It’s just training. I mean, we have a young team, as guys have said. But it’s getting to a point in the season where we can’t really use young guys as an excuse. So we’re hitting crunch time.”

The Bruins have been unable to win back-to-back matches since winning their first three contests of the season. The team has struggled with injuries, with senior middle blocker Daenan Gyimah missing matches against Long Beach State, Ohio State and Penn State, among others, after leading the team in kills last year.

Redshirt senior opposite Brandon Rattray, who was second in kills during the 2019 campaign, has only appeared once this year.

Coach John Speraw said he’s still hopeful about the team’s possibilities come the end of the season, despite the struggles of the program so far.

“Most teams’ progress isn’t in a straight line in any year and I think this year is probably no exception,” Speraw said. “Probably more jagged, because of some inexperience and injury but I think we’re learning important lessons and I’m still pretty optimistic about where we can be.”

Leading the team in kills this season is freshman outside hitter/opposite Cole Ketrzynski, who has totaled 94 kills through 10 matches. He said consistency will be found through playing hard in practice in order to improve the team’s abilities.

“I think it’s just in practice keeping our focus as much as we can and making sure we stay disciplined so that we don’t let it slip,” Ketrzynski said. “We need to work on our all-around game and our ability to compete. So we’re just gonna try and get extra reps in the gym and try to push each other more to work harder.”

UCLA has a chance to end its losing streak when it faces Concordia University Irvine on Friday. The Eagles have already beaten No. 14 UC San Diego, who swept the Bruins earlier in the season.

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Jake Greenberg-Bell | Sports contributor
Greenberg-Bell is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball beat. He was previously a contributor on the women's soccer beat.
Greenberg-Bell is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball beat. He was previously a contributor on the women's soccer beat.
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