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UCLA men’s volleyball cleans No. 1 Beach in upset victory

Redshirt senior outside hitter Alex Knight soars in the air to slam a kill. Knight recorded 14 kills to spur on UCLA’s victory over Long Beach on Saturday night. (Brianna Carlson/Daily Bruin)

Men's Volleyball

No. 1 Long Beach1
No. 4 UCLA3

By Connor Dullinger

Feb. 11, 2024 2:34 p.m.

The Bruins reversed their narrative against the Beach on Saturday night.

Aided by double-digit kill performances from outside hitters redshirt junior Grant Sloane and redshirt senior Alex Knight off the bench, No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball (9-3) defeated No. 1 Long Beach State (10-1) in a four-set thriller at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins handed the Beach their first loss of the 2024 campaign after losing on the road the night prior.

Coach John Speraw said the affair was affected by fatigue after Friday’s contest.

“You can see that tonight, physically, I don’t think either team was really sharp,” Speraw said. “There was a lot of emotional energy expended last night, so this became a little bit more of a match of attrition, which we were fortunate enough to win.”

The Bruins looked to their bench to step up down the stretch of the match.

Sloane responded on both ends of the court, contributing a season-high 16 kills on a .583 hitting clip to go along with five digs and two blocks.

“Our depth, especially with outsides, is pretty impressive, and it’s really a great tool to have,” said redshirt senior middle blocker Merrick McHenry. “Whatever we need and whenever we need it, certain guys can come in, and they’re going to step up, and they’re going to perform.”

Alongside Sloane, Knight provided life for the team Friday and Saturday, with seven and 14 kills, respectively.

On a night of individual records, sophomore setter Andrew Rowan supplied his hitters with a season-high 59 assists in the match – his third 50-assist outing this season and the fifth of his career.

The match was a back-and-forth contest for its entirety. The first and second sets featured 28 ties and five lead changes.

After winning the first set in overtime 29-27, the Bruins reached set point on four occasions in the second frame, until the scoreboard reversed to hand them a 29-27 defeat.

McHenry said the Bruins rallied and stayed positive throughout the match.

“As a middle blocker, there are times when I can’t be a part of the game. During these times I have to be able to lead with things other than my play,” McHenry said. “I make sure to do that with my face and my smile and my attitude. I try and help my teammates in that way.”

UCLA restricted Long Beach to a .176 and .241 hitting percentage in the third and fourth frames, respectively. Bolstered by Sloane’s 13 kills through the stretch, the hosts exacted revenge from Friday’s loss as the Beach departed Westwood with a 3-1 besting.

Despite splitting the season series, Sloane said the Bruins are appreciative to meet top-ranked talent heading into MPSF contention.

“Getting to play the No. 1 team in the nation – or one of the best teams in the nation – is a great opportunity,” Sloane said. “Especially considering that we are heading into league play, it’s good to play out-of-conference opponents.”

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Connor Dullinger
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