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Despite slow start and service errors, UCLA men’s volleyball secures victory

Freshman outside hitter Zach Rama goes up for a kill. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

Men's Volleyball

Concordia Irvine University0
No. 2 UCLA3

By Ira Gorawara

March 2, 2023 5:12 p.m.

This post was updated March 13 at 2:36 p.m.

A lethargic onset of the match was thwarted by a reboot by the blue and gold, who ultimately emerged victorious against the Golden Eagles.

In the face of deafening commotion from Eagles fans and contentious calls from the referees, No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (16-1, 3-0 MPSF) emerged from Pauley Pavilion with a sweep of Concordia University Irvine (5-10, 0-3). Despite the commanding defeat, the first frame was characterized by seven tied scores and early back-and-forths.

Multiple arguable calls by the referees, including a seemingly illegal Eagles kill early in the second set, enkindled visible frustration on coach John Speraw’s face.

“You got to do your job,” he said to the referee as junior outside hitter Ethan Champlin patted him on the back. Despite the calls, UCLA kept its eyes on the prize.

With alternating service errors and kills from the Bruins and the Eagles, neither team took more than a two-point lead until midway through the first set when an Eagles attack error gave the blue and gold a 16-13 advantage.

With the new lead secured, the Bruins took matters into their own hands, putting up a 10-2 run which secured them a 25-16 control of the first slate.

With all 13 of the team’s first-set assists under his name, freshman setter Andrew Rowan said he recognized the Bruins’ sluggish and passive start to the game.

“We stopped taking the game for granted. We started to give a little more effort and play a little harder and focus more,” Rowan said. “Focus was a big thing for us.”

Part of the issue, according to Speraw, was the Bruins’ lack of pressure from the service line which was giving the Eagles an opportunity to keep the game close.

“We had to increase the amount of pressure we put on them. We had six service errors pretty early there, and it was something we talked about during one of the timeouts,” Speraw said. “We increased focus from the service line, made sure we understood the importance of that in the match, and I think the guys really responded.”

Despite the breakthrough in the Bruins’ play in the first set, they still emerged with a total of 19 service errors in the match, compared to 12 from their opponents.

Averaging 17 service errors per game, Speraw said the blue and gold value the importance of understanding its errors.

“If we’re having some service errors, what type of errors are they? If they’re out by a foot, that’s OK. But if we’re serving too many balls that aren’t very accurate, we need to have some conversations about what we are doing,” Speraw said. “If we can lessen our errors in those two categories, then we’ll be in a really nice place.”

Serving has been make-or-break for the Bruins in recent days. During its matchup against No. 4 Penn State, the blue and gold tallied 10 service errors in the first set alone, ultimately facing its first, and only, loss of the season thus far.

“Serving can be our greatest asset or our biggest downfall,” Rowan said. “When we serve well, we are great. When we don’t, the game is a little tougher.”

Freshman outside hitter Zach Rama saw crucial minutes toward the end of the first and second frames and a majority of the third. Rama secured his first kill immediately after he stepped on court, courtesy of fellow freshman Rowan.

Rama’s prompt kill set the tone for his performance throughout the night, as he left the night hitting at a .889 clip and tied a team-high eight kills off the bench by the end of the third set.

Rama said he credits his efficient performance off the bench to his teammates, particularly Rowan.

“I got teammates around me putting me in position to succeed,” Rama said. “Andrew gives me balls that are perfect. They’re great to hit.”

Aces by sophomore outside hitter/opposite Ido David hoisted the Bruins to 21-10 in the third and final frame, with Rama supplementing the offensive onslaught with five kills of his own in the set.

Also on the court for the Bruins, redshirt freshman outside hitter Cooper Robinson marked his fourth game of the season with a two kill on two attack performance upon entering the third set, securing the victory for the Bruins with the final two kills of the game.

“For Zach to come off the bench and have that impact is awesome,” Rowan said. “Cooper got to come in too. It’s great for Cooper and shows the talent we have on this team, especially off the bench.”

The Bruins serve off against the Golden Eagles in the second part of their doubleheader Friday at 7 p.m. at CU Arena.

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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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