Defeating UCI, UCLA men’s volleyball players achieve season-high performances
Redshirt junior outside hitter Grant Sloane stretches before a game in Pauley Pavilion. Sloane was efficient on the offensive end Friday night, notching nine kills alongside a .471 clip. (Felicia Keller/Daily Bruin senior staff)
|No. 7 UC Irvine
|No. 5 UCLA
Feb. 3, 2024 9:04 p.m.
This post was updated Feb. 4 at 11:33 p.m.
“Next man up” was the Bruins’ motto Friday night.
No. 5 UCLA men’s volleyball (8-2) defeated No. 7 UC Irvine (5-3) in the second leg of a doubleheader. Following a five-set thriller Wednesday, the former captured a four-set victory at Pauley Pavilion on Friday behind contributions from multiple Bruins.
“The bench has been amazing,” said coach John Speraw. “It’s hard when you have a team this deep. They’re ready to go when we need them.”
Outside hitter Cooper Robinson – who started just two games last season – was granted yet another starting nod after the redshirt sophomore notched 22 kills Wednesday night. In the match-winning point during Friday’s game, Robinson eclipsed 22 to secure a new career high in kills with 23.
On Friday, Robinson showcased his versatility on the floor with eight digs, five blocks and a .525 hitting percentage to accompany his record-breaking kills.
Robinson’s pin-hitting counterpart, redshirt junior Grant Sloane, finished the match with two digs, two blocks and nine kills on a .471 clip. In another integral effort from the bench, sophomore outside hitter Zach Rama recorded five kills, three aces and 10 digs.
Sloane said his and Rama’s contributions off the bench were critical both to the team and to themselves, as they have struggled to see the playing time they want this season.
“I love being able to do it for the team,” Sloane said. “I’m normally a guy that goes in between playing and being on the bench, so when I’m able to get it, I have all the support from the guys on the bench.”
With a season-high nine kills for the night, Sloane added that adapting to transitioning on and off the bench is a mental game.
“I’ve had to learn to control your emotions and conserve energy while you’re on the bench so you can save it while you’re in the game and not get burnt out hyping yourself out on the sidelines,” Sloane said.
While depth was critical to UCLA’s victory Friday, veteran figures also achieved dominating tallies.
Redshirt junior middle blocker Guy Genis contributed 11 kills on a .562 clip and three blocks. Simultaneously, sophomore setter Andrew Rowan supplied his hitters with 50 assists in the match – his second 50-assist exhibition this season and the fourth of his career.
Significant production from the bench was not the only novelty the Bruins saw Friday. Senior outside hitter Ethan Champlin wore the opposite color and manned the libero position – his first time assuming the defensive specialist role this season.
“Ethan did a great job, and that’s really the first time we’ve ever done that with him, and I thought he was amazing, but he’s also an amazing attacker for us,” Speraw said. “That’s not going to be the default move right now, but it was something I did want to see, and I’m pleased with what I got.”
Speraw’s decision to send Champlin in at libero empowered the rest of his squad, another testament to the depth of the roster.
“Ethan was really selfless in giving up his outside one position to step in as the libero for us,” Sloane said. “To be able to play so many lineups and still have this success just speaks to the depth of our team in all positions.”