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UCLA men’s volleyball beats Stanford in first match of the teams’ doubleheader

Sophomore outside hitter Cooper Robinson gets down on his haunches for a dig as senior outside hitter Ethan Champlin and redshirt senior outside hitter Alex Knight prepare to help. (Darlene Sanzon/Daily Bruin)

Men's Volleyball


No. 6 Stanford1
No. 2 UCLA3

By Lex Wang

March 30, 2024 12:08 p.m.

The students and faculty of Westwood may be celebrating the end of winter quarter on vacation, but the Bruins are celebrating with a win right at home.

Stepping on the court for the first time in 19 days, No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (17-4, 6-1 MPSF) defeated No. 6 Stanford (9-10, 2-5) in four sets at Pauley Pavilion. Friday evening’s affair marked the first of the teams’ doubleheader.

Coach John Speraw said significant time off during finals week didn’t deter the team’s motivation.

“If you don’t have a deep team, sometimes the first match back can be a little shaky – it can be not as sharp, not as crisp. The connection may not be there,” Speraw said. “You can lose a little bit of the edge, but we didn’t, and I think that’s because we really trained well.”

Refreshed from the break, the Bruins clinched Friday’s first set by a seven-point margin. Spurred by five consecutive kills by redshirt sophomore outside hitter Cooper Robinson, UCLA never let its score drop below Stanford’s, consistently remaining five to seven points ahead before claiming a 25-18 win.

Although Speraw had seemingly established stability at the libero position over the last couple of games, sophomore Coleman McDonough made an inaugural appearance as one of two starting liberos and saw playing time throughout the match.

“We have three different combinations of liberos that we could potentially use,” Speraw said. “Alex (redshirt senior outside hitter Alex Knight) is injured right now – hopefully he’ll be back next week. But at this point, we decided to go with Coleman, who’s been playing well in practice, and I thought he did a nice job out here in his first start.”

Amid back-and-forth pacing from Speraw and chants from sophomore outside hitter Zach Rama that a rival player’s “kneepads are untied,” the Bruins faced a much tighter game in the second set. Despite 10 ties and six lead changes, UCLA ultimately scraped a three-point victory to go up two sets to none.

Hitting at a .250 in the second set, followed by an even lower .103 clip in the third – numbers not indicative of what Speraw said he hoped to see for his team’s offense – the Bruins’ slower offensive production in the second frame translated to faulty production in the third as they garnered a game-high seven errors in the set alone and allowed Stanford a 25-22 win.

Redshirt senior middle blocker Merrick McHenry said coming together as a team was crucial to turning things around after the third frame.

“A lot of it is just making sure to play one-point volleyball. … It’s about winning this one point – this point right here,” McHenry said. “Between sets, we really made sure to go back to Bruin volleyball and make sure that we serve aggressive, we pass well, and if we did that, the rest is going to fall in line.”

Despite five service errors in the fourth set, the Bruins brought their hitting percentage back up to .545 – their highest of any set – and restricted the Cardinal to .273. Robinson, redshirt junior outside hitter Grant Sloane and senior outside hitter Ethan Champlin notched 10 kills apiece by the end of the night.

McHenry, who ended the match with eight kills on a .667 hitting percentage, and Robinson both said sophomore setter Andrew Rowan, who tallied 37 assists, was key to their offensive success.

In spite of Stanford’s loss, Speraw said he anticipates the team to emerge hungry in the second match of the doubleheader on Saturday evening. And given their experience, Speraw said, by the end of the year, the Cardinal could become a force to be reckoned with, especially when some of their athletes return from injuries that have kept them on the bench.

“Stanford is a very capable team,” Speraw said. “I fully anticipate them to come back tomorrow (Saturday) night and be better. … They’re still finding their groove.”

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Lex Wang | Enterprise editor
Wang is the 2023-2024 Enterprise editor. Previously, she was the 2022-2023 Opinion editor, and prior to that, an assistant Opinion editor. She is Arts and Quad staff and also contributes to News, Sports on the men's volleyball beat, Copy, Design, Photo and Video.
Wang is the 2023-2024 Enterprise editor. Previously, she was the 2022-2023 Opinion editor, and prior to that, an assistant Opinion editor. She is Arts and Quad staff and also contributes to News, Sports on the men's volleyball beat, Copy, Design, Photo and Video.
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