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Men’s volleyball serves up win against Grand Canyon in season opener

Sophomore outside hitter/opposite Cole Ketrzynski rises for the spike over two Grand Canyon blockers. Ketrzynski led all players Friday with 13 kills. (Ellie Tsai/Daily Bruin)

Men's Volleyball

No. 10 Grand Canyon0
No. 9 UCLA3

By David Deng

Jan. 31, 2021 10:04 a.m.

This post was updated Jan. 31 at 10:43 p.m.

Playing in a home opener without fans in the stands, the Bruins started the season with a victory in a top-10 showdown.

No. 9 UCLA men’s volleyball (1-0, 1-0 MPSF) defeated No. 10 Grand Canyon (1-1, 1-1) 3-0 in its season opener Friday by a score of 25-20, 25-22, 25-22. The Bruins outperformed the Antelopes in almost every facet of the game, notching more kills, aces and digs while posting a better hitting percentage. Five UCLA players had at least six kills.

Sophomore outside hitter/opposite Cole Ketrzynski, who earned second-team All-MPSF honors last year, led the team in kills with 13. Following behind him were redshirt sophomore middle blocker Daniel Matheney, who had 10 kills in 14 attempts, and redshirt senior outside hitter Austin Matautia with eight kills in 13 attempts. Setting up these attackers was redshirt senior outside hitter/setter Sam Kobrine, who recorded 40 assists to set a career high.

Playing with masks and no fans, coach John Speraw said the Bruins had to rely on themselves to keep the energy level high on the court.

“The enthusiasm was good on the court,” Speraw said. “I thought the communication in both tactical conversations and energy conversations were very good – I was very pleased about that.”

Grand Canyon opened the match with a service ace on the first point. After that play, however, UCLA limited them off the serve. Led by redshirt junior libero/outside hitter Cole Pender’s 11 digs, the Bruins didn’t allow an ace for the rest of the match while holding the Antelopes to a .229 hitting percentage.

Last year, when UCLA went against Grand Canyon, the team surrendered 11 aces in four sets, while managing only four aces of its own.

This time, the Bruins won the service ace battle five to one.

“I thought we served great,” Kobrine said. “Ketrzynski had two (aces) in the first set, which gave us so much momentum. I think that was a big part of how we were able to go out and play so well.”

Friday’s opener also marked the debuts of redshirt freshman outside hitter/opposite Merrick McHenry and freshman outside hitter Ethan Champlin, who were both inserted into the starting lineup.

McHenry – playing at middle blocker – had six kills, two digs and two blocks, while Champlin also had six kills along with eight digs and two blocks.

With the addition of new pieces and key departures from last year’s squad, Speraw emphasized the team still has a ways to go in developing chemistry on the court.

“You’ve got (Champlin) who’s new out there, and (Kobrine)’s setting for the first time, and (McHenry) we just moved to middle last week, so from a tactical perspective, we have a lot to get better, but we did enough today to get a win,” Speraw said.

However, Speraw said the team’s interpersonal dynamic has been excellent.

“Our team culture seems to be in a really good place,” Speraw said. “I’m pleased with the character and personality of the guys I work with every day, which is what you want – when you come to work, you want to work with people you love working with, and that’s the way I feel about this team.”

Next week, UCLA will travel to Provo, Utah, to play BYU, the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. The Bruins will be playing back-to-back matches against the Cougars on Thursday and Saturday.

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David Deng | Sports staff
Deng is currently a Sports staffer on the men's volleyball beat. He was previously a reporter on the gymnastics and women's volleyball beat and a contributor on the cross country and track & field beats.
Deng is currently a Sports staffer on the men's volleyball beat. He was previously a reporter on the gymnastics and women's volleyball beat and a contributor on the cross country and track & field beats.
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