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UCLA men’s volleyball dominates rival USC with offensive performance

The Bruins huddle before their match against the Trojans on Thursday night. Despite a modified starting lineup, UCLA men’s volleyball swept its crosstown rivals on the road. (Lex Wang/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's Volleyball


No. 4 UCLA3
No. 11 USC0

By Anthony Aroyan

March 1, 2024 2:23 p.m.

Cooper Robinson did not move beyond the service line when the Bruins were up 12 in the second set.

One.

Two.

Three aces from the sophomore outside hitter later, and the Trojan trumpets blew for the third set.

No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball (13-4, 4-1 MPSF) swept USC (10-7, 2-3) at the Galen Center on Thursday night. The Bruins recorded their second-highest win margin in a set this season with a 25-10 victory in the second.

“Well, you can see by the score it was a good night for the Bruins,” said coach John Speraw. “We did just about everything really well. Once we got past the first 10 points of the match, we played great volleyball.”

UCLA featured a new starting lineup as redshirt sophomore middle blocker Sean McQuiggan and redshirt junior outside hitter Grant Sloane opened the match. McQuiggan led the team with four first-set kills, hitting perfectly off four attempts.

Speraw said the unusual starting lineup was due to USC’s physicality in the middle of the court.

“McQuiggan’s a big guy who can shut down the middle of the court, and against an SC team that has two really good middle blockers, I thought that was important,” Speraw said. “And Sloane has a big serve, big arm, can play fast and hits really well on the left side.”

The Bruins took early control with a 6-1 spurt from being tied at three apiece. While UCLA hit for a .387 clip, it recorded no blocks on the defensive end despite trying to meet USC at the net throughout the frame.

Although the attempted blocks did not connect, the Bruins maintained their established lead to win the set 25-20 after senior outside hitter Ethan Champlin’s decisive kill.

While the match’s commencement signaled the events to come, the second frame nearly set records.

The Bruins scored eight unanswered points midway through the second set, half of which came from Champlin. The offensive stalwart finished the match as UCLA’s leading scorer with 10 kills – five of which came in the team’s most decisive frame of the night.

“One thing we’ve been trying to do is just stay tight and locked in,” Champlin said. “I feel like our team did a really good job of that. Everybody was keeping the communication high and the focus level high, so proud of the guys for playing good volleyball.”

To secure the 25-10 set win and overall victory, Robinson drilled three consecutive service aces. His hat trick led the team in aces and came alongside nine kills off a .467 clip.

“I just love kicking USC’s butt,” Robinson said. “Honestly, it’s just really fun to play out here – it’s a good environment. I think we were all just in flow states tonight.”

Performance behind the service line was one of the match’s deciding factors as the Bruins out-aced the Trojans 9-1, despite having six more service errors in the process.

Speraw said changing the team’s serving mentality has been vital to its growth.

“We’ve been talking quite a bit about this balance between aggressiveness and accuracy, and I don’t think we were very clear about how we wanted to serve,” Speraw said. “Tonight, we were more aggressive, and you can see the pressure we put on them (USC) was more important than the errors.”

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