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UCLA men’s volleyball seeks revenge for 2022 MPSF loss with Stanford doubleheader

Several members of UCLA men’s volleyball prepare to receive a serve. UCLA will face the squad that knocked it out of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament last season in Stanford. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's Volleyball

No. 10 Stanford
Friday, 7 p.m.

Stanford Live Stream
No. 10 Stanford
Saturday, 5 p.m.

Stanford Live Stream

By Anthony Aroyan

March 16, 2023 3:09 p.m.

For the second time this season, the Bruins are seeking vengeance against a team that handed them a postseason loss in 2022.

No. 3 UCLA men’s volleyball (19-2, 4-0 MPSF) is gearing up for a two-match away series against No. 10 Stanford (9-8, 2-2) on Friday and Saturday. The Cardinal were responsible for knocking the Bruins out of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament last season.

[Related: Stanford blocks UCLA men’s volleyball’s hopes for MPSF tournament title]

The opportunity for payback is not lost on the team as it looks to get back under the win column following its second loss of the season over the weekend.

“Stanford always plays really well against us, especially when they’re at home,” said redshirt junior middle blocker Merrick McHenry. “They were the team that knocked us out of the MPSF tournament last year. We’re coming with a little bit of vengeance after what happened.”

McHenry has cemented his role with the Bruins this season. He holds the third-highest hitting percentage on the team at .493 and is tied for third in kills with 123. McHenry also leads the squad in blocks with 62.0, ranking 21st in the nation in the category.

(Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Merrick McHenry goes up for a hit. The redshirt junior middle blocker has averaged 123 kills at a .493 clip this season. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

On a national scale, UCLA ranks third in blocks per set with 2.625. That strength will be a focal point of the weekend’s matches because of the presence of Stanford’s Will Rottman. The outside hitter was an AVCA All-American last season and currently ranks ninth in the country with 3.98 kills per set.

While Rottman was taken out of Stanford’s game against Hawai’i in February with an injury, his 21 kills in his team’s loss to UC Irvine last week is an indication that the senior will be fully fit for this weekend’s action.

“They (Stanford) are another high-quality opponent that can play really well,” said coach John Speraw. “They haven’t been 100% healthy, (but) I’m guessing they will be against the Bruins, so we’ll have another real big battle on our hands.”

Another important piece for the blue and gold this weekend will likely be outside hitter Zach Rama. The freshman has worked his way into the rotation in recent weeks and featured significantly in the third and fourth sets against Hawai’i in UCLA’s last match. The freshman has recorded 12 kills in each of his last two appearances.

[Related: Amy’s Angle: Zach Rama’s talent is promising for UCLA men’s volleyball’s future]

After the match against the Rainbow Warriors and in preparation for the Cardinal, Rama expressed his desire to continue to work on his game in practice. In particular, he said he wanted to improve the synergy between himself and freshman setter Andrew Rowan.

“We have a good week of training ahead of us,” Rama said. “Going to work a lot on blocking and connections with the setter.”

The Bruins’ first game against the Cardinal will take place Friday at 7 p.m. at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion before a second game at the same venue Saturday at 5 p.m.

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Anthony Aroyan
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