The Bruins are back to work.
No. 8 UCLA men’s volleyball (5-5, 0-2 MPSF) will head south to take on Concordia University Irvine (6-7, 1-1) in Irvine, California, on Friday. The Bruins will then face off against crosstown rival USC (2-9, 0-2) in the team’s second home game of the season Sunday evening.
UCLA enters the game Friday on a two-match losing streak, having been swept by both No. 11 Stanford and No. 2 BYU on their respective home courts. It’s the first time the Bruins have been swept in back-to-back games since 2015.
UCLA played Concordia three times over the course of last year’s campaign, and the Bruins came out with a perfect record in the matchups, beating the Eagles in three sets every match and averaging a .331 hitting percentage.
But the Bruins have not swept an opponent since their second contest of the season on Jan. 4.
Even though the Bruins have historically been successful against the Eagles, freshman outside hitter/opposite Cole Ketrzynski warned against going into the game with the wrong intensity.
“They’ll be another good team and another good game. I think if we manage to get that intensity up and that focus up it’ll be good for us,” Ketrzynski said. “But if we can’t get that going then it could be (a) tough game.”
While UCLA swept USC in its first crosstown rivalry game of last season, the Bruins ended their regular season by losing to the Trojans in five sets. Then, USC ended UCLA’s 2019 campaign altogether by knocking them out of the MPSF tournament less than two weeks later.
So far, the Bruins have had one home game over the course of 10 matches. 10 games into the season last year, UCLA had played four matches at home and was sporting an 8-2 record.
Redshirt senior middle blocker Matt Younggren played in two of the three games against the Eagles last season and said the Bruins are expecting a tough match.
“They’re a good team, they’re always fired up, real scrappy, real good defensive team,” Younggren said. “They’ve got some big arms too, so we can’t take it lightly at all. We have to go in there and expect a really good match.”
While UCLA beat then-undefeated No. 4 Long Beach State on Feb. 1, it has failed to win a set since its upset and is now winless in MPSF play.
Nevertheless, when coach John Speraw was asked about how he can help the team become more consistent, he said the team has been working hard to learn from their mistakes going forward.
“I think you just get back into the gym and keep working and stay consistent in the way that you train and communicate and teach,” Speraw said. “The guys are seeing the realities of what it takes to try and win in men’s volleyball today, and we’ll just keep working to take advantage of those lessons.”