Despite strong performances, UCLA men’s volleyball falls to No. 1 Long Beach State
Junior Ido David soars in the air to hit a ball. The outside hitter/opposite posted a season-high 15 kills and eight digs Friday night against Long Beach State. (Lex Wang/Daily Bruin senior staff)
|No. 4 UCLA
|No. 1 Long Beach
Feb. 10, 2024 12:38 p.m.
Mason Briggs’ fist hit the floor.
The Long Beach State libero – amid the roaring, sold-out crowd – let the ball drop to hand the first set to UCLA.
He never had to repeat that pain.
Like most players on both sides, Briggs flew around the court, keeping balls alive as No. 1 Long Beach State (10-0) bested No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball (8-3) in a four-set, 2 1/2-hour affair Friday night at the Walter Pyramid.
Coach John Speraw said the match provided him a chance to spot his team’s flaws against top-ranked competition.
“What I noticed are areas of the game where we can make some improvements, and that obviously makes me optimistic about what the team can ultimately become,” Speraw said.
Despite a stunted few games, Ido David once again emerged as the Bruins’ powerhouse and a possible indicator of their future – leading the squad with 15 kills alongside his eight digs.
The junior outside hitter/opposite said he felt in the groove against Long Beach State – a groove he had been failing to hit recently.
“We just worked on what I felt needed the work and what I felt is the problem,” David said. “And I’m happy that it’s shown today (Friday). It’s given me the confidence.”
Yet, one other key player proved integral for the Bruins.
Although a winning start in the first frame devolved into a slaughter by midway through the second, the Bruins’ knight in shining armor finally emerged. Entering off the bench, redshirt senior outside hitter Alex Knight spurred a 5-0 run in the second set to propel UCLA within a point of Long Beach State.
But one of Speraw’s weaknesses – running out of substitutions – reared its head at 21-all, and the Bruins’ hot streak ran out with no real setter on the court.
Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe credited his team’s short-term memory for the second set and ultimately the win.
“With a ‘so-what’ side out mentality if they score a point, which is way easier said than done in the emotions of a match, you’re going to be okay,” he said. “And the guys tonight did a really good job when things got a little bit dicey at times, which will happen in a match, of having a ‘so-what’ side out mentality.”
On the other side of the net, Speraw threw plays and players at the Beach with the hope for a true difference-maker.
More names littered the playbook as Speraw attempted to sub in Zach Rama for the game’s final frame. But the sophomore outside hitter couldn’t secure the win, and a lack of adaptability took its next victim.
“It took a long time to change our play, our mind,” David said. “For tomorrow (Saturday), we would like to do it faster and quicker and earlier and just bring more energy and stay together.”
Sweat glistened off players’ bodies as Speraw challenged back-to-back Long Beach State pancakes, bringing out his green card to keep the match close for as long as he could through the fourth set.
But setter Andrew Rowan’s untimely sophomore slump peaked out as a ball-handling error pushed the Beach up four in what would become the final frame of the match.
Cheers, flags and banners crowded the air as the final ball dropped – a service error courtesy of Rowan.
Briggs’ fist pumped upward in victory this time.