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‘It was an off day’: No. 1 UCLA men’s volleyball falls to No. 4 Ohio State

Senior outside hitter Ethan Champlin soars for a kill. Although UCLA men’s volleyball snapped a 16-game win streak, Champlin recorded a season-high 18 kills on Friday night. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)

Men's Volleyball

No. 1 UCLA2
No. 4 Ohio State3

By Connor Dullinger

Jan. 20, 2024 10:39 a.m.

Self-inflicted blows prevented the Bruins from maintaining their longest win streak in 17 years.

Following its first five-set contest of the season, No. 1 UCLA men’s volleyball (4-1) fell to No. 4 Ohio State (5-0) in its first match of the First Point Collegiate Challenge in Austin, Texas. After taking the first two sets, the Bruins’ 30 service errors came back to bite, as they lost three straight to suffer their first loss of the season.

“We had a lot of service errors tonight, and I’m OK with some service errors depending on what kind of error it was,” said coach John Speraw. “I always look at how we make the errors we make. I tried to see if we were aggressive, focused and going through the right routine, but we weren’t doing that tonight.”

UCLA racked up just four aces on the night – a stark divergence from its 2.02 per set average last season, a figure that was good enough for second in the nation. The Buckeyes not only had one more ace with five but also had seven fewer service errors with 23.

Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Cooper Robinson said the Bruins’ serving did not live up to expectations Friday.

“It was an off day. I don’t think any of us served very well, and we definitely have guys that can crank the ball,” Robinson said. “We tried tactical serving in the first two sets, and it was going really well, but they were starting to pass really well and we couldn’t stop it.”

It was a tale of two matches for Ohio State. The Buckeyes concluded the first set with a hitting percentage of .000 and finished the fourth set with a hitting percentage of .524, resulting in an overall percentage of .305.

Despite the defeat, Robinson and senior outside hitter Ethan Champlin notched season-high figures, serving as the catalysts when scores teetered on the brink.

Champlin finished the match with a season-high 18 kills and one service ace while Robinson racked up 11 kills and six blocks – both of which were season-high tallies.

“I thought the resilience of our team was very good tonight, especially in the second set when we were down. I feel like we stole that set from them,” Champlin said. “I thought we played next-point volleyball, and we always kept good energy and kept our heads up.”

(Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)
The Bruin bench celebrates a point during a match. Members of the squad expressed optimism after Friday’s loss, and the team will be back in action Saturday. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)

The last time UCLA played Ohio State was last season when the Bruins took the match 3-1. The Buckeyes are 4-9 against the Bruins since 2006 and have not beaten them since 2017.

Despite falling to a top-five ranked squad, Champlin said the Bruins exited Austin with collective optimism.

“We need to keep improving our communication skills, and we need to figure out what works best with one another and just having trust,” Champlin said. “It will build slowly, and we will continue to give it our all and try to play the best volleyball that we can.”

Ranked fourth in the nation, Ohio State fell just short of an NCAA semifinal appearance last season. With the return of nearly their entire squad, the Buckeyes may meet the Bruins again when the NCAA tournament comes around.

Looking ahead, the Bruins strive to have short-term memory regarding early-season shakeups, and they plan on solidifying and strengthening the squad as the season progresses, Champlin said.

“It is the start of the year, and we are still ironing things out, and it is not as much winning or losing in January and it is more about winning and losing in May,” Champlin said. “We need to continue to not get flustered, to hold our heads high and get back in the gym.”

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