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New UCLA men’s volleyball rotation gears up for matchups against UCSB, UCSD

Andrew Rowan elevates to set a kill. The sophomore setter is the reigning AVCA Newcomer of the Year and MPSF Freshman of the Year. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

Men's Volleyball

UC Santa Barbara
Thursday, 7 p.m.

Pauley Pavilion
Pac-12 Los Angeles
UC San Diego
Friday, 7 p.m.

Lion Tree Arena

By Anthony Aroyan

Jan. 24, 2024 11:10 a.m.

The Bruins are returning to Pauley Pavilion for the first half of a back-to-back.

No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (5-1) will return home to play against No. 17 UC Santa Barbara (2-5) on Thursday night before traveling to face No. 20 UC San Diego (2-5) on Friday night. The matches mark an opportunity for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champions to continue putting wins together following a loss against No.1 Ohio State that allowed the Buckeyes to claim the nation-leading ranking.

Coach John Speraw said Thursday’s matchup will be integral for the Bruins after three weeks on the road.

“We want to get into Pauley. We haven’t played there very much,” said Speraw. “It’s a different experience to play in there, so we want to go to Pauley, get some training and get out there to compete.”

During the Bruins’ stint in the First Point Collegiate Challenge in Austin, Texas, Speraw experimented with his rotation and brought new faces into the mix, including freshman outside hitter Luca Curci.

The 2023 High School Player of the Year recorded eight digs in his debut game – where UCLA managed a sweep of Morehouse. Following his breakout performance, Curci saw action in all three sets of his team’s sweep of No. 9 Penn State.

Curci said he is excited to return to Westwood but remains focused on victory.

“I’m super excited about it (playing in Pauley Pavilion). It will be a good experience for sure,” said Curci. “We have to lock in, but I think we get the job done.”

Redshirt sophomore Sean McQuiggan has proven himself a key rotational figure in the early weeks of the season, appearing in two games. The middle blocker had his number called against the Nittany Lions, where he earned four kills off seven attempts while simultaneously contributing to the block on the defensive end.

McQuiggan said the Bruins will need to prepare for the Gaucho’s possession–based playstyle.

“UCSB are a really good team. Great ball control team,” McQuiggan said. “I’m excited. I have a few friends on that team, so I always look forward to playing guys that I know on the other side of the court.”

UCLA was undefeated against both UCSB and UCSD in 2023, not dropping a set in four matches.

The AVCA Newcomer of the Year, sophomore setter Andrew Rowan, is set to make his first start against the Gauchos. Last year’s matchup featured Miles Partain assuming starting duties, after which he parted ways from the program to pursue professional beach volleyball.

Rowan started his first match of his UCLA career at home against UCSD last season, where he recorded 24 assists and a career-high six service aces, matching the latter this year against Lewis on Jan. 11.

Through the history of these three programs and their previous matchups, one sentiment remains consistent between the players in preparation for Thursday: playing in front of the home crowd.

“I love the atmosphere. The last two years have been amazing,” said McQuiggan. “I’m super excited to see our student section, and hopefully, we can ball out again.”

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Anthony Aroyan
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