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UCLA men’s volleyball sweeps Pepperdine with modified starting lineup

UCLA men’s volleyball converges for a team huddle during a timeout. The Bruins swept their season series against the Waves with back-to-back sweeps. (Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)

Men's Volleyball


No. 4 UCLA3
No. 11 Pepperdine0

By Lex Wang

Feb. 18, 2024 2:50 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 19 at 9:19 p.m.

Alex Knight was noticeably out of uniform as the Bruins walked on court.

Instead, the injured stalwart stood with the team’s bench, leading it in chants after each successful point.

The redshirt senior outside hitter was one of several key Bruin starters who saw less or no playing time in No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball’s (11-3, 2-0 MPSF) sweep of No. 11 Pepperdine (9-4, 0-2 MPSF) at Firestone Fieldhouse on Saturday.

Coach John Speraw said he altered his usual starting lineup to showcase the team’s versatile roster.

“We definitely have depth – we’ve talked about it a lot this year,” Speraw said. “In these situations, when someone’s injured or we want to give someone an opportunity, we know that we’d go out there and not lose our level.”

Despite Speraw’s postgame positivity, the team could not initially find its groove, dropping the first five points of the match. The Bruins only received their first point from a service error on the other side of the net.

UCLA could not overcome a three- to four-point deficit until late in the opening frame – a gap that redshirt sophomore middle blocker Sean McQuiggan said came from an accumulation of Bruin errors.

“It’s a new gym – we had to get used to playing in it in the first set,” said sophomore outside hitter Zach Rama. “Then we got comfortable in the second or the third – we kind of got in our swing of things and ended up coming out with a win.”

The first set featured the Bruins and the Waves trading points to end in an overtime score of 30-28, hinting that Saturday’s game would result in one much tighter than UCLA’s home victory Wednesday.

The second set, however, quickly demonstrated otherwise: UCLA proved that the confidence Speraw expressed after the match was far from misplaced. Rama spearheaded the Bruins to a 25-11 decision with five kills in the frame.

The Bruins restricted the Waves to a .000 hitting percentage in the second frame, in comparison to UCLA’s second-set .632 clip.

Although the Bruins ran an early deficit at the start of the third, they quickly turned the lag into another 25-19 win.

Rama and McQuiggan – who only recently recovered from his injury – garnered 12 and nine kills, respectively, to usher in the overall win. The two managed a .381 and .818 clip en route to their career-high tallies.

“It’s always a really cool experience to go out and work on what I’ve been doing in practice and be able to show off all that stuff,” McQuiggan said.

In a testament to the team’s depth, the ball remained evenly distributed across the lineup – redshirts senior middle blocker Merrick McHenry, sophomore outside hitter Cooper Robinson and junior outside hitter Grant Sloane struck at .625, .250 and .500, respectively.

Junior outside hitter/opposite Ido David – a familiar UCLA starter – was only substituted in after Sloane took a ball to the head and faced a potential concussion, Speraw said.

Speraw said the dichotomy between sets amid a not-so-typical Bruin lineup reflects the essence of men’s volleyball.

“Sometimes in volleyball matches, things can happen in chunks,” Speraw said. “The nice – the best – part about our sport is you can be up or down 0-2, and it’s still a match and things can still happen, and you can see that in the third set. … I was really, really pleased that we were able to get out of here 3-0.”

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Lex Wang | Editor in chief
Wang is the 2024-2025 editor in chief. She was previously the 2023-2024 Enterprise editor and the 2022-2023 Opinion editor. She is Arts and Quad staff and also contributes to Copy, News, Sports on the men's volleyball beat, Design, Photo and Video.
Wang is the 2024-2025 editor in chief. She was previously the 2023-2024 Enterprise editor and the 2022-2023 Opinion editor. She is Arts and Quad staff and also contributes to Copy, News, Sports on the men's volleyball beat, Design, Photo and Video.
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