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Sizable rotation features newer players in recent UCLA men’s volleyball win

Ethan Champlin goes up for a kill. The junior outside hitter tallied a season-high five aces and nine kills en route to a .692 hitting percentage – his second best of the season. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Ira Gorawara

March 11, 2023 5:32 p.m.

Debuting new hitters alongside veterans, 14 different players took the court Friday.

After securing a 3-1 victory during UCLA’s last matchup against Purdue Fort Wayne back in 2015, two entirely new rosters took the court for the Outrigger Volleyball Invitational. No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (18-1, 4-0 MPSF) swept Purdue Fort Wayne (12-7, 3-4 MIVA) to claim their second victory in Honolulu.

With just two lead changes during the game, the Bruins stayed in front for a majority of the three sets. Nevertheless, the Mastodons battled back from steep holes to ensure the margin didn’t exceed seven points throughout the first frame.

Junior outside hitter Ethan Champlin said despite UCLA’s win, Purdue Fort Wayne’s pressure proved steady and took perseverance to overcome.

“In the second set, they came out with a lot of pressure and they were fired up to play, and we just weathered the storm a little bit,” Champlin said. “We have shown to have a lot of poise in a lot of our matches throughout the season, so nothing new for us.”

Repeated kills in the first set by UCLA hitters ignited a breakthrough for the squad, pulling away 14-7 for its largest lead of the contest thus far. The Bruins’ scoring run gave them a large enough lead to ultimately take control of the game.

Purdue Fort Wayne picked up its first and only lead of the game, at 14-13 in the second slate, after redshirt senior middle blocker J.R. Norris IV recorded an attack error. The blue and gold rebooted after a team timeout, squashing the Mastodon rally.

“Even though overall we were playing at a higher level, they put on some stretches of play that pressured us a little bit,” said coach John Speraw. “They forced us to respond and steady out and continue to play our game, and we did a nice job of that tonight.”

Freshman outside hitter Zach Rama, who recorded 12 kills on the night and struck at a .409 clip, connected a final kill to grant the Bruins a 2-0 lead heading into what ended up as the final set of the game.

“Any opportunity Zach has to come in and gain some experience, his potential is really high,” Speraw said. “He’s become a much-improved passer over the course of the season and his trajectory of improvement has been very impressive.”

Rama began the third set the same way he concluded the second. Marking his eighth kill of the night, the freshman propelled the Bruins to a 3-0 opening.

“We had a lot of quick offensive pulls from the middle, and I was able to get one-on-one opportunities and was able to put them away,” Rama said.

Five kills from Champlin gave the Bruins a five-point lead at 15-10 before redshirt freshman outside hitter Cooper Robinson took Champlin’s place to mark his first minutes in the match.

Aside from Robinson, several fresh faces took the court as UCLA’s lead proved formidable enough toward the end of the third set. Redshirt freshman middle blocker Sean McQuiggan and redshirt junior setter/libero Ayrton Garcia-Jurado saw their first and fourth appearance, respectively, in a blue and gold jersey this season.

The appearance of fourteen Bruins on the court is critical for team camaraderie, according to Speraw.

“It’s very hard to make a lot of subs,” Speraw said. “For us to get an opportunity to get some guys that deserve it, work hard for the program, an opportunity to play and be celebrated by their teammates is a special moment for all of us and great for the morale of the team.”

Despite a quieter night for sophomore outside hitter/opposite Ido David after tying a season-high 21 kills against No. 3 Penn State on Thursday, he mustered a .800 clip Friday. Similarly, Champlin recorded his second-best hitting percentage of the season at .692, adding five service aces in the win.

“He’s (David’s) just a player that does everything for us,” Speraw said. “Even if there is a particular aspect of his skill that isn’t perfect in any one night, he is still critical for our overall team success just because he passes the ball well and is very vocal in terms of tactical execution and energy on the court.”

Overcoming fatigue from Thursday night’s five-set game and continuous pressure from the Mastodons, the blue and gold enters Saturday night’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 contest with Hawai’i on the heels of victory.

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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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