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Men’s volleyball moves to solidify lineup after back-to-back wins vs. UC Irvine

Members of No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball look toward sophomore setter/opposite Miles Partain (right) during its victory over No. 15 UC Irvine on Saturday. The Bruins swept the home-away weekend series against the Anteaters. (Vivian Xu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's Volleyball

No. 15 UC Irvine1
No. 4 UCLA3
No. 15 UC Irvine2
No. 4 UCLA3

By Abigail Siatkowski

Feb. 6, 2022 4:55 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 6 at 11:29 p.m.

For the first time all season, coach John Speraw chose to play the same starting lineup for two consecutive matches.

And both games resulted in Bruin triumphs.

No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball (6-1) beat No. 15 UC Irvine (3-7) 3-1 at the Bren Events Center in Irvine on Friday evening. The Bruins took home another victory over the Anteaters on Saturday night, winning 3-2 at Pauley Pavilion.

“I thought our guys played pretty well (Friday),” Speraw said after Saturday’s contest. “So I wanted to see a similar group go out there (Saturday) and see how they would compete.”

The starters for both matches included freshman outside hitter/opposite Ido David, sophomore outside hitter Ethan Champlin and sophomore setter/opposite Miles Partain. The lineup also featured redshirt senior libero Cole Pender, redshirt freshman middle blocker Guy Genis, redshirt sophomore middle blocker Merrick McHenry and redshirt freshman outside hitter Grant Sloane.

In the first set of Friday’s match, UCLA sustained a four-point defeat to UC Irvine. Despite more than doubling the Anteaters’ kills, the Bruins could not rise to the top of a back-and-forth period in which neither team led by more than two points until the final two rallies.

UCLA took an early lead in the second set to beat UC Irvine 25-14, earning a hitting percentage of 0.480 – the highest either team would tally in a set that night. The Bruins also secured a victory in the third set, churning out a late 5-0 run en route to a 25-22 triumph.

David said the team used the time between the first and second sets to raise its spirits.

“We built a lot of energy and a lot of positivity and a lot of joy just to play and to be there,” David said.

The fourth set played to the same tune of the back-and-forth opening frame, though it instead ended in success for the Bruins. Neither team held a lead of more than four points throughout the set, but a service ace from David – the first one of the match for UCLA – launched the Bruins ahead 25-24 going into match point.

Although David’s next serve initially resulted in an error, the point was awarded to UCLA when UC Irvine setter Dylan Zhai was called for being out of rotation before David hit the ball, giving the Bruins the victory.

(Kari Lau/Daily Bruin senior staff)
No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball huddles adjacent to its bench during its victory against No. 15 UC Irvine on Saturday. The Bruins utilized the same starting lineup for both matches against the Anteaters. (Kari Lau/Daily Bruin senior staff)

On Saturday, the Bruins claimed a win against the Anteaters once more.

During the first set, David scored seven kills, eventually winning the night in the statistic. David’s 20 kills on Saturday set a new career high, beating his previous record of 19 earned on Friday in Irvine.

“I (am) always happy to reach new heights for myself, and I’m always happy to be there for the team and to do the best that I can do to win,” David said.

In the second frame, the Bruins faltered, losing 25-23. However, UCLA came back during the third to win 25-14, the largest margin of victory in any of the night’s sets.

Speraw said exhaustion contributed to his team’s missteps in the second set.

“It’s hard to be a student-athlete when you have back-to-back matches, (and) you’re in the middle of midterms,” Speraw said.

The Bruins fell back again in the fourth set, managing to put up 16 points. With seven attack errors, the team could not overcome an early deficit, trailing the Anteaters for the entire period. Pushed to a fifth set, the team was at match point with Partain up to serve.

Partain said he relied on his practice while in the moment.

“Just going through your routine and remembering your training,” Partain said. “Process-oriented not results-oriented.”

Partain hit the serve over the net, and UCLA won the match with a kill from Champlin, who was aided by an assist from Partain. Saturday’s five-set triumph saw a career-best 52 assists from Partain, narrowly edging out his previous best of 50 obtained the night before.

As the season continues, Speraw said fans may see more consistency in the team’s starting lineup.

“As we get towards the middle of February and into conference (play), we’ll have to start making some decisions about what roles everybody’s going to have,” Speraw said.

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Abigail Siatkowski | PRIME director
Siatkowski is the 2022-2023 PRIME director. She was previously the 2021-2022 PRIME content editor and a contributor for the Arts, News, Sports and Outreach sections. She is also a third-year communication student at UCLA.
Siatkowski is the 2022-2023 PRIME director. She was previously the 2021-2022 PRIME content editor and a contributor for the Arts, News, Sports and Outreach sections. She is also a third-year communication student at UCLA.
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