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UCLA men’s volleyball seeks red-hot revenge over Stanford for MPSF title

The team watches on. UCLA will take on Stanford in the MPSF championship game. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)

Men's Volleyball


No. 3 seed Stanford
Saturday, 6:05 p.m.

Maples Pavilion
FloVolleyball

By Ira Gorawara

April 22, 2023 12:19 p.m.

STANFORD — A year after the Bruins dropped the conference semifinal match to the Cardinal, a title-clinching rematch awaits the squads.

In a revenge-seeking contest, No. 1 seed UCLA men’s volleyball (28-2, 12-0 MPSF) will face off against No. 3 seed Stanford (15-12, 6-6) for the conference championship Saturday in Stanford. The Bruins are in search of their eighth MPSF title in program history, with the chance to break a 16-year drought.

Junior outside hitter Ethan Champlin said despite the high stakes of Saturday’s matchup, UCLA is aiming to put last year’s defeat behind them.

“There are definitely jitters, especially realizing what happened last year,” Champlin said. “It’s recognizing that and then realizing that the past is in the past, and this is a new year. We love where our team is at.”

UCLA handed Grand Canyon a 3-0 decision Thursday night to clinch a finals berth. Stanford, on the other hand, advanced to the title match with a five-set victory over BYU despite losing both regular season contests against the Cougars.

With Stanford hosting the tournament, the Bruins will face a Cardinal team enjoying home-court advantage. But according to redshirt junior middle blocker Merrick McHenry, the Bruins thrive away from Pauley, using the commotion to spur their on-court performance.

“We love away matches,” McHenry said. “We always play with more focus and energy because what they’re saying can be kind of funny, kind of distracting. Ultimately it’s something we aren’t worried about because it’s just about getting this one point right now.”

(Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)
Redshirt junior middle blocker Merrick McHenry goes up for a serve. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)

McHenry enters Saturday’s contest with the best hitting percentage in the nation, touting a .527 average. The number comes after a season-high .909 performance in UCLA’s semifinal matchup against Grand Canyon, where he tallied 10 kills.

According to McHenry, his connection with freshman setter Andrew Rowan has been crucial to his offensive success.

“Whether in practice or just hanging out, Rowan and I have really good communication,” McHenry said. “He knows what I need and I know what he needs from me. As this year has gone on we have just gotten more comfortable with each other and a lot closer.”

Although last year’s semifinal saw a 3-2 result in favor of Stanford, the Bruins dominated the regular season matchups this year with a back-to-back sweep in their doubleheader against the Cardinal. In the first game of the series, UCLA forced Stanford to post a negative hit percentage on its scorecard for the first time in six years.

Coach John Speraw, who is in his 11th season at the helm of the Bruins, will have the chance to secure his first MPSF title after last year’s heartbreaker.

“It’s about understanding what things need tightening up and what we can realistically achieve with the remaining training time we have,” Speraw said. “Then we have to go out and do it and be ready to go.”

The Bruins’ campaign for the 2023 conference title kicks off in Maples Pavilion on Saturday at 6:05 p.m.

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Ira Gorawara | Sports editor
Gorawara is the 2024-2025 Sports editor on the football, men’s basketball and NIL beats and a Copy contributor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men’s volleyball, men’s tennis, women’s volleyball and rowing beats and a contributor on the men’s volleyball and rowing beats. She is a rising third-year economics and communication student minoring in professional writing from Hong Kong.
Gorawara is the 2024-2025 Sports editor on the football, men’s basketball and NIL beats and a Copy contributor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men’s volleyball, men’s tennis, women’s volleyball and rowing beats and a contributor on the men’s volleyball and rowing beats. She is a rising third-year economics and communication student minoring in professional writing from Hong Kong.
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