UCLA men’s volleyball refreshes experienced roster with new faces
UCLA men’s volleyball players form a huddle around coach John Speraw during a game. The Bruins will kick off their 2023 season Thursday. (Jeremy Chen/Assistant Photo editor)
Cal State Northridge
Thursday, 5:30 p.m.
No TV info
UC San Diego
Friday, 3 p.m.
No TV info
UC Santa Barbara
Saturday, 8 p.m.
No TV info
By Anthony Aroyan
Jan. 3, 2023 3:32 p.m.
Heading into the 2023 season, the Bruins are looking for a return to consistency as they add new faces on the court and in the locker room.
Entering his 11th year at the helm of UCLA men’s volleyball, coach John Speraw said he is looking to replicate the success of his blue and gold tenure in 2023.
“Last year, … we were coming off essentially two years of COVID management,” Speraw said. “We really let the guys know that … we were going to require everyone to be in a much better place physically.”
Speraw said he placed importance on two factors for this iteration of the men’s volleyball team.
“The mentality of this core first, it’s 100% commitment to the task,” Speraw said. “No. 2 is continuing to build a sense of family, being good teammates and making sure that the team chemistry and culture of the program is in a really healthy place.”
When it comes to the squad itself, the Bruins have recruited several high-profile freshmen, including setter Andrew Rowan and outside hitter Zach Rama, who featured on the U21 squad for Team USA during the Pan American Cup. Other newcomers to the blue and gold this season include middle blocker Christopher Hersh, opposite David Decker and libero Coleman McDonough.
This collective of freshmen join a group coming off an NCAA semifinal appearance and 22-5 regular-season record.
Despite the talents and accolades of his incoming players, Speraw said their role within the squad has yet to be set in stone.
“They know it’s going to be very competitive,” Speraw said. “They’re exceptionally talented young players. They have learned a lot this fall.”
Among the returners, several key players remain on the team, including the likes of junior setter/opposite Miles Partain, who won the MPSF Player of the Year award in 2022. Other key players returning to the team include junior outside hitter Ethan Champlin, who featured on the 2022 All-NCAA tournament team, and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Guy Genis, named MPSF Freshman of the Year in his first season with the Bruins in 2022.
With the fresh depth the blue and gold is adding to various positions in its lineup, Speraw said he has yet to solidify who the mainstays will be during the early portion of the season.
“I don’t know how it’s going to shake out for where anybody ends up on court or what role everyone’s going to have,” Speraw said. “How we define everybody’s role will be a big part of what we do in January.”
Prior to the kickoff of the 2023 season, UCLA played a number of preseason games over the fall. The Bruins will have an opportunity to put their preseason experience to the test at the upcoming Asics Invitational hosted at UC Santa Barbara.
“These are very meaningful matches against very, very good teams,” Speraw said. “I understand that the depth of skill and talent around the country right now is exceptional. …There are no easy matches anymore in the NCAA.”
UCLA will commence its season against Cal State Northridge at 8 p.m. on Thursday in Santa Barbara.