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After a slow start, UCLA men’s volleyball sweeps BYU without dropping a set

Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Guy Genis soars for a kill in UCLA men’s volleyball’s win over BYU on Friday night. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Anthony Aroyan

Feb. 18, 2023 1:24 p.m.

Despite a sluggish start to the match, the Bruins were able to keep their eyes on the prize.

When the final whistle blew at Pauley Pavilion on Friday night, No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (12-1, 1-0 MPSF) left the floor with a sweep against No. 8 BYU (8-3, 0-1). The match marked the beginning of conference play in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation for the blue and gold.

Although UCLA came out of the match without dropping a set, the Cougars kept the contest competitive throughout, particularly in the first two frames.

“I thought that we showed quite a bit of poise, especially because we went down pretty significantly in the first two sets,” said coach John Speraw. “We got back to chipping away and playing quite well.”

In the first frame, a driving force in keeping the Bruins alive was redshirt sophomore middle blocker Guy Genis, who saw significant time on the court in part because of the absence of J.R. Norris IV. The redshirt senior middle blocker was kept out of the action because of an illness.

Genis recorded a perfect three kills on three attempts as well as two sequential aces from the service line, which allowed the blue and gold to take the lead in the first frame.

Genis’ aces were also accompanied by an ace from freshman setter Andrew Rowan, who recorded 37 assists after being named Men’s Collegiate Volleyball Player of the Week by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

“Those two aces he (Genis) had in particular were critical in the comeback,” Speraw said. “He was really good on running the gap set, and Rowan utilized that pretty well to set up the rest of the offense.”

The start of the second set was a near mirror image to the first. The Bruins conceded four service errors in a row but were also able to keep themselves in the game with kills of their own. With seven errors from the line in the second frame, UCLA recorded 19 service errors in total for the match.

Senior outside hitter Alex Knight recorded a frame-leading seven kills in the second set, netting him 10 total kills for the match alongside a .833 hitting percentage.

“When I’m in the match, I’m just in a flow state,” Knight said. “We didn’t have our best offensive night so I was happy to be able to provide some of those kills, props to the rest of the team for helping me out.”

(Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Junior outside hitter Ethan Champlin goes for a dig. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

While various players stepped up at certain points in the match, the consistent presence for the Bruins throughout the contest was Ethan Champlin. The junior outside hitter recorded 11 kills, tied for most on the team alongside sophomore outside hitter/opposite Ido David.

Champlin’s significance on the court was not just through his offensive performance, as he also led the team with four digs.

“What keeps me on the court is not just being an offensive threat, but it’s also on the defensive side,” Champlin said. “I definitely take pride in that. I always have because that’s what coaches have always required of me.”

Champlin’s two-way display combined with the poise and determination of the Bruins as a unit led UCLA to overcome deficits in the first two sets. Having survived the war of attrition, the blue and gold was able to put together a convincing third set and complete the sweep.

“They’re a proud, capable, and talented team. … They’re going to go home tonight and not be happy and come back with a little more resolve,” Speraw said. “You’ve got to know that and come back with more.”

UCLA continues its campaign in the second stage of the back to back against BYU on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the John Wooden Center.

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