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With a dive over a table, UCLA men’s volleyball secures win against Irvine

Ethan Champlin lunges to save the ball while senior outside hitter Alex Knight looks on. Highlighted by his leap over a table to save a point midway through the third set, the junior outside hitter led the defense with eight digs as the team showed tenacity in the face of a skilled UC Irvine opponent. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's Volleyball


No. 6 UC Irvine1
No. 2 UCLA3

By Lex Wang

Feb. 27, 2023 3:03 p.m.

Ethan Champlin decided he would rather crash over a table than let the opposition win a point.

Three sets in – one having gone to the Bruins and one to the Anteaters – the junior outside hitter rushed beyond the bounds of the court to save the ball, leaping across a media table to pass it back to his teammates.

“I’ve just always been the kind of guy to get down and dirty,” Champlin said. “My team deserves that from me.”

In the team’s second match of the weekend against No. 6 UC Irvine (9-5), No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (15-1) overcame a first-set deficit to secure the win in four sets at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday. This time at home, the play mimicked Friday’s match, in which the Bruins also lost their first set to come back and ultimately defeat the Anteaters.

[Related: Coach John Speraw secures 200th victory with UCLA men’s volleyball]

Despite dropping the first set to Irvine, UCLA’s determination and dedication increased throughout the rest of its play, according to coach John Speraw. Extending rally after rally, the Bruins kept the ball from touching the ground – headlined by Champlin’s hurdle over the wooden surface to cap off a several-hit rally.

“It gives me a heart attack when Champlin goes over the side like that,” Speraw said. “But it definitely epitomizes the effort and heart that this team has.”

With his 400th win overall under his belt as a head coach secured Sunday, Speraw did so against his old team – whom he brought to triumph 199 times before taking over at UCLA. Speraw said he saw the need to keep energy high among the blue and gold against his former team.

(Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)
John Speraw paces. Sunday marked the coach's 400th win at the helm of a program, and his 201st with UCLA. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

“I think we understood we were playing against a very good team,” Speraw said. “It was about knowing that we were going to have to play a little bit better and up our level.”

Coming back from the jump over the table, Champlin ended the night with a defensive show of eight digs and two blocks. The outside hitter echoed Speraw’s sentiments, adding that the importance of staying composed and focused after losing the first set was critical to the Bruins’ success.

On the offensive side, the duo of freshman setter Andrew Rowan and redshirt junior middle blocker Merrick McHenry combined to hammer home the final kills of both the second and third sets. Finishing the contest hitting at a .636 clip with a team-high 15 kills, McHenry credited his teammates.

(Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Merrick McHenry soars for a kill. Hitting at a .636 clip for the night on Sunday and securing the second and third sets for the Bruins, the redshirt junior middle blocker got named co-Middle Attacker of the Week by Off the Block Monday morning. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

“When I’m out there, I’m really just trying to do it for my teammates and my coaches,” McHenry said. “I knew that my team needed me.”

The combination of teamwork and resolve extended to the whole squad. After each point, win or lose, senior outside hitter Alex Knight – who ended the match with 10 kills – continuously hyped up his teammates.

After losing the first set and winning the fourth set in extra points, McHenry said the team could continue to learn by playing tougher opponents like the Anteaters.

“It just ultimately helps us for longer down the road when things get a little tight and a little stressful,” McHenry said. “It was definitely super good for us to be challenged a little bit, and it was also super good to see us come out the other side victorious.”

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Lex Wang | Enterprise editor
Wang is the 2023-2024 Enterprise editor. Previously, she was the 2022-2023 Opinion editor, and prior to that, an assistant Opinion editor. She is Arts and Quad staff and also contributes to News, Sports on the men's volleyball beat, Copy, Design, Photo and Video.
Wang is the 2023-2024 Enterprise editor. Previously, she was the 2022-2023 Opinion editor, and prior to that, an assistant Opinion editor. She is Arts and Quad staff and also contributes to News, Sports on the men's volleyball beat, Copy, Design, Photo and Video.
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