UCLA men’s volleyball to face Stanford for chance at MPSF championship matchup
Members of No. 1 seed UCLA men’s volleyball put their hands together in a huddle. The blue and gold will take on No. 5 seed Stanford in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament semifinals Thursday. (Shane Yu/Daily Bruin)
No. 5 Stanford
Thursday, 4:05 p.m.
April 21, 2022 11:33 a.m.
The Bruins won every conference matchup this season except for one.
That lone loss came at the hands of their upcoming postseason opponent.
No. 1 seed UCLA men’s volleyball (21-3, 11-1 MPSF) will take on No. 5 seed Stanford (13-13, 4-8) in the semifinal round of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament Thursday. So far this season, the Bruins have beaten each MPSF foe twice, except for the Cardinal.
UCLA split the season series against Stanford, taking a five-set defeat to open the doubleheader March 11. The Bruins are entering the postseason on the heels of a nine-match winning streak, ignited by their series-closing triumph over the Cardinal.
In its most recent matchup against Stanford on March 12, UCLA swung for a .426 hitting percentage en route to a 3-1 victory. UCLA knocked down 60 kills, with 51 assists from sophomore setter/opposite Miles Partain.
Since that win, Partain said the Bruins’ chemistry has reached new heights.
“Our team togetherness, which is kind of an arbitrary, intangible factor, (has) gotten a lot closer over the season,” Partain said. “It really helps when we’re under pressure if we stick together.”
With a victory Thursday, the blue and gold will advance to play the winner of No. 2 seed USC and No. 3 seed Pepperdine on Saturday evening.
Following their first regular-season conference championship since 1998, the Bruins received a bye for the quarterfinal round by virtue of being the top-seeded team. UCLA is also ranked as the No. 1 program in the country, spending nine straight weeks atop the AVCA Division I-II Coaches Poll following its victory over then-No. 1 Long Beach State on Feb. 19.
Despite the Bruins’ perceived success, coach John Speraw said his team still has much to prove.
“We’re not done yet,” Speraw said. “Excited about what we’ve done so far, but also know that there’s challenges ahead and lessons to be learned.”
With a conference title, UCLA is a contender for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament in May, according to Off the Block. As a top-two seed, the Bruins would be exempt from playing in the first two rounds and would begin their run in the semifinals May 5.
Like it will be for the NCAA tournament, Pauley Pavilion is the host site for the MPSF tournament. UCLA holds an 11-1 record at home this season, including a 8-0 performance in Pauley Pavilion.
Ahead of the postseason, Partain was named the MPSF Player of the Year along with earning an All-MPSF first team nod. With his 10.33 assists per set, Partain led the Bruins to a .378 hitting percentage, the best in the nation.
Partain added his team’s defense and passing have improved over the course of the season.
“Our defense has gotten better in the back row,” Partain said. “My setting has got a bit better, which helped us a lot.”
With at least three more contests before the NCAA championship final, redshirt senior middle blocker J.R. Norris IV said his teammates have one mission on their minds.
“Whoever is out there on the floor when the final ball drops – we know that we just gave it our all,” Norris said.
First serve against the Cardinal is Thursday at 4:05 p.m.