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UCLA men’s volleyball to face top-10 teams in Penn State, Ohio State

Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Sean McQuiggan rises to set the ball as sophomore setter Andrew Rowan and redshirt junior outside hitter Grant Sloane look on. (Lex Wang/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's Volleyball

Penn State
Friday, 4 p.m.

Galen Center
Pac-12 Los Angeles
Sunday, 5 p.m.

Pauley Pavilion
Pac-12 Los Angeles

By Anthony Aroyan

March 7, 2024 1:05 p.m.

This post was updated on March 7 at 10:51 p.m.

The Bruins are taking a break from MPSF play for two top-10 showdowns.

No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball (14-4, 5-1 MPSF) will face No. 9 Penn State (13-5, 4-0 EIVA) on Friday at the Galen Center and No. 8 Ohio State (14-4, 8-2 MIVA) on Sunday at Pauley Pavilion in the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge. The series will mark the second time the Bruins face both opponents this season after January’s First Point Collegiate Challenge.

The Buckeyes handed the Bruins their first defeat of the season in a five-set thriller two months ago. The final set boiled down to a two-point differential. UCLA reversed its fortune the following day to sweep Penn State in a match where the former netted five service aces while not allowing any.

“We had a tough time with Ohio State last time, so that’s going to be a very important match for us, and Penn State is always a great tradition and rivalry,” said coach John Speraw. “It feels like a long time since we played those programs, so we’re looking forward to getting back on the court with them.”

Performance behind the service line has been a key feature of the Bruins’ matches as of late. UCLA notched 14 aces in last weekend’s doubleheader against USC, with nine of them coming in the road affair. Redshirt senior middle blocker Merrick McHenry led the team in the category with five, while junior outside hitter/opposite Ido David remains top of the team with 24 on the season.

Speraw has made rotational changes which may factor into the team’s performances over the weekend – two players in particular have assumed larger roles.

Redshirts sophomore middle blocker Sean McQuiggan and junior outside hitter Grant Sloane both started for the first time this season and played significant parts in UCLA’s wins last week. McQuiggan emerged as the team’s leading blocker with nine through the two affairs, and Sloane tallied 19 combined kills on the offensive end.

Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Cooper Robinson said adding Sloane and McQuiggan to the rotation has given the Bruin lineup more size.

“They definitely add a lot of physicality – they’re big boys,” Robinson said. “McQuiggan’s almost a 7-footer and Sloane touches 6’8″, so it’s really good having them for the block, and it’s a lot easier on our defense.”

Both of UCLA’s opponents are going into the weekend coming off a loss to a top-15 squad. Ohio State dropped a five-set affair to No. 11 Loyola Chicago, while Penn State traveled to Southern California last week to face No. 2 Long Beach State, where a 3-1 decision fell in favor of the Beach.

Freshman outside hitter Luca Curci said the team can’t underestimate the Nittany Lions come Friday.

“We watched them play against Long Beach. They’re a really good team, and they’re pretty scary,” Curci said. “We have to come in this week with a good game plan and be able to execute.”

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Anthony Aroyan
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