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UCLA men’s volleyball maintains undefeated streak in challenging Ohio State match

Freshman setter Andrew Rowan goes up for a serve. Rowan came off the bench for the Bruins to lead the squad to a win in their tight contest on Friday. (Ilan Berdy/Daily Bruin)

Men's Volleyball


No. 2 UCLA3
No. 13 Ohio State1

By Bryan Palmero

Feb. 4, 2023 12:09 p.m.

The monotony of winning started to seep into the country’s second-best team.

Victors of their last eight matches entering Friday, the Bruins found themselves losing their edge as they dropped a set for just the second time this season.

“We kind of laid back and took the foot off the gas,” said sophomore outside hitter/opposite Ido David.

But with a jolt of energy from David and a flurry of bench substitutions, No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (9-0) adjusted to secure a 25-22, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23 triumph over No. 13 Ohio State (6-3) at the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.

David, the team’s leader in kills per set this year, headed the attack with a match-high-tying 18 kills to guide the Bruins to their ninth consecutive win Friday. Hitting .424 for the afternoon, the sophomore starter swung for seven kills in the contest-clinching fourth set after his team failed to secure the sweep.

“When we lost the third set, we went to the bench and were like, ‘We need to crush them,'” David said.

But starting the fourth set in unfamiliar territory in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania, UCLA found itself trailing 4-0 and in jeopardy of facing a decisive fifth game. The Bruins had thrown redshirt sophomore Guy Genis into the action after the middle blocker briefly saw the court in the third period. They shuffled the bench further by replacing All-American junior Miles Partain with freshman Andrew Rowan at setter.

The two late-match substitutions proved to only be a piece of the puzzle.

Using every trick in the book, coach John Speraw later added freshman Zach Rama and redshirt sophomore Grant Sloane into the outside hitter mix. The permutations of attackers had Rowan dishing the ball out to nearly everyone on the floor.

Rowan, who finished Friday’s contest with 11 assists, said he strives to add a dimension to not only his team’s offense but also its mentality to change the tides of any given match.

“Coming off the bench, personally, I bring a sense of energy,” Rowan said.

Redshirt senior middle blocker J.R. Norris IV added his seventh and final kill to his errorless performance, Genis swung for another on his only attempt of the match and David continued to be a beneficiary, but Rama’s lone kill proved to be the difference maker.

Down 16-12, Rama’s slice into the Ohio State backrow from Rowan kicked off a five-point run and gave UCLA its first lead of the set.

“Being put in the fourth just comes down to, ‘We got to be ready at any moment,’” Rowan said. “I know Rama got put in too. And he played his role and did his job.”

Rama’s two service aces and Rowan’s continual feeding of the Bruins’ hot hands overpowered a Buckeye team which had outhit them in the first frame. The blue and gold rallied to a 25-23 fourth set win by exhibiting a difference in attitude from its third period defeat, according to David.

Senior outside hitter Alex Knight chipped in a consistent stream of seven kills and four total blocks to help secure the first two sets of the match. Junior outside hitter Ethan Champlin also served a veteran presence with 13 kills, six digs and three service aces as UCLA bested its ranked opponent.

“For us, it was the first game that we had a team that can actually challenge us,” David said. “I’m happy that we could handle it and really make a positive outcome from this.”

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Bryan Palmero | Daily Bruin senior staff
Palmero is a senior staff writer for Sports. He served as the assistant Sports editor on the softball, beach volleyball, women's volleyball, men's volleyball and men's golf beats from 2021-2022 and a Sports reporter on the beach volleyball and women's volleyball beats in 2021. He is a third-year mathematics and economics student.
Palmero is a senior staff writer for Sports. He served as the assistant Sports editor on the softball, beach volleyball, women's volleyball, men's volleyball and men's golf beats from 2021-2022 and a Sports reporter on the beach volleyball and women's volleyball beats in 2021. He is a third-year mathematics and economics student.
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