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Men’s volleyball gears up for competitive matchups against Ohio State, Penn State

Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Guy Genis goes up for a kill. Genis and the Bruins will look to face their toughest competition of the season yet on Friday and Saturday. (Julia Zhou/Daily Bruin)

Men's Volleyball


No. 13 Ohio State
Friday, 1 p.m.

University Park, PA
BigTen+
No. 4 Penn State
Saturday, 4 p.m.

University Park, PA
BigTen+

By Ira Gorawara

Feb. 3, 2023 11:16 a.m.

After eight consecutive victories, the Bruins are en route to confront two of their toughest competitors this season.

Just two of the Bruins’ past eight matchups were against a ranked team, including then-No. 12 UC Santa Barbara. This weekend, they take on two more. No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (8-0) is set to encounter No. 13 Ohio State (6-2) on Friday and No. 4 Penn State (6-1) on Saturday.

In preparation for the upcoming contests, the Bruins have locked in during practice and simulated game-like circumstances, according to redshirt sophomore middle blocker Guy Genis.

“We are working really hard, and guys are competing for their spot,” Genis said. “When we get on the court at game time, practice all of a sudden seems harder than the game, so the game seems pretty easy to manage compared to practice.”

Last year’s contests against both the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions saw the Bruins win 3-2 and 3-1, respectively. In each of the two showcases, junior setter/opposite Miles Partain led the squad with 47 and 42 assists, alongside junior outside hitter Ethan Champlin, who tallied 11 kills against Ohio State and a career-high-tying 18 kills against Penn State.

“He passes the ball for us, and he obviously is a left side attacker,” coach John Speraw said. “He shoulders a heavy responsibility in transitioning out-of-system attack, and he does a great job of it.”

Under the guidance of Champlin and Partain, freshman setter Andrew Rowan is finding his position in the squad by learning each player’s on-court habits and how he can contribute his skillset.

“At practice, it’s definitely been trying to connect with the hitters, still,” Rowan said. “I’m still pretty new to the program being a freshman so trying to learn everyone’s tendencies, what everyone likes and getting a connection moving.”

His efforts have yielded results. Rowan has tallied 35, 39 and 27 assists in the Bruins’ past three games and has strengthened connections with his hitters, according to sophomore outside hitter/opposite Ido David.

“Andrew is a new setter for me, but from the start, we got really good together,” David said. “He’s a great setter, great person and great player.”

Just three weeks into his freshman season, Rowan leads the Bruins with 6.05 assists per set – placing himself 49th in the country. On top of that, Rowan averages .525 aces per set, good for 14th in the nation.

Alongside Rowan is freshman outside hitter Zach Rama, who is coming off the first start of his career, in which he led the Bruins with 10 kills and a .429 hitting percentage.

Rama said mentoring from senior outside hitter Alex Knight has been influential to his game play.

“I got a lot of reps with Alex Knight, and it was great to be out there and be able to pull the lead and put what we did in practice into the game,” Rama said.

Leading up to what could be the two toughest games of the Bruins’ season so far, the squad is anticipating what its contenders will bring and how it can leverage its talent to overcome both the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions.

“We have a couple days here to prepare for probably the largest challenges we have had this season,” Speraw said. “We will have to be better. We have to learn from tonight (Tuesday night) and execute on some of the things we’ve been talking about the last couple weeks in order to beat some really high quality teams.”

With the addition of two new true freshmen to the court and coming off of victories against both opponents last year, the Bruins will serve off against the Buckeyes at 1 p.m. Friday and against the Nittany Lions at 4 p.m. Saturday.

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Ira Gorawara | Assistant Sports editor
Gorawara is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, men's tennis and rowing beats and is a Copy contributor. She was previously a reporter on the men's volleyball and rowing beats. She is also a second-year communication and economics student.
Gorawara is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, men's tennis and rowing beats and is a Copy contributor. She was previously a reporter on the men's volleyball and rowing beats. She is also a second-year communication and economics student.
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