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Men’s volleyball sweeps UC Santa Barbara in 1st season game at Pauley Pavilion

Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Grant Sloane and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Guy Genis go up against a UC Santa Barbara attacker. Sloane notched a double-double in the Bruins’ sweep over the Gauchos, including a crucial kill during extra points in the first set. (Brandon Morquecho/Daily Bruin)

Men's Volleyball

No. 12 UC Santa Barbara0
No. 2 UCLA3

By Anthony Aroyan

Jan. 21, 2023 1:41 p.m.

As two teams battled across the net at Pauley Pavilion, one sound drowned out the callouts of the players and the whistles of the referees: the roar of the crowd.

During its first game of the season at the school’s prestigious venue, No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (5-0) emerged with a sweep against No. 12 UC Santa Barbara (1-6). Despite the 3-0 victory, the eventual outcome did not come without a fight from the Gauchos.

In the first set of the matchup – UCLA’s longest of the year – the Bruins recorded 32 points and 48 attacks as the cheer of the Bruin faithful rang throughout the arena. The frame saw 10 ties and three lead changes, a majority of which occurred late in extra points as the Bruins battled to secure the first set.

With the score tied at 25 apiece, redshirt senior libero Troy Gooch dove from the court toward the sideline to keep the ball in play, a moment that allowed redshirt sophomore outside hitter Grant Sloane to hit a kill and give the Bruins the advantage.

“Both teams were making huge plays, and that was certainly one from Gooch,” coach John Speraw said. “I thought Gooch had an outstanding match.”

As the set continued, errors from both teams paved the way for a 32-30 UCLA win, with the team hitting for a team match-low of .250 in the frame.

“I don’t think it was our most smooth set,” Speraw said. “We didn’t hit .300 in that set, and that is pretty unusual for us.”

Alongside Gooch, Sloane emerged as a standout contributor. The outside hitter recorded a game-high 11 kills and hit for .320 to help lead the blue and gold to its fifth straight win. Sloane also established himself on the defensive end, posting a game-high 12 digs.

“It has nothing to do with what I’m doing but everything to do with what the other guys are doing,” Sloane said. “We have great players at every position. When the defense has to worry about all those guys, it opens the game up.”

After the first set, the Bruins were able to quicken the pace of the game and put pressure on the Gauchos. The second frame remained close initially, but the Bruins’ offense, this time led by senior outside hitter Alex Knight, jumped out to an eight-point lead and closed out the frame with a 25-17 margin.

Knight, who recorded no kills in the first set, led the team with six in the second set. His showing in the second frame also saw him raise his hitting percentage from -.111 to .250.

“My teammates told me to stay aggressive,” Knight said. “I got put in good positions and took big swings. … Good things happen when you do that.”

From then on, the high-powered blue and gold offense was able to maintain its lead, completing the sweep with a 25-21 win in the third set.

Prior to the matchup, Speraw emphasized the need for even distribution among the offense – getting the ball to hitters on both sides to take advantage of the depth of his team. That philosophy was reflected in the team’s play Friday, as the Bruins moved the ball and paved the way for four players – Sloane, Knight, redshirt junior middle blocker Merrick McHenry and junior outside hitter Ethan Champlin – to score double-digit hits.

“We got better with how we distributed the ball,” Speraw said. “We killed a couple of deep balls. I thought we passed really well.”

Sloane said the Pauley Pavilion atmosphere propelled UCLA to the win Friday night.

“The fans were great, … more people than we have had in any of our games so far,” Sloane said. “We were all fired up just to be back in Pauley.

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Anthony Aroyan
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