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UCLA men’s volleyball prepares for top-ranked matchup against Grand Canyon

Members of UCLA men’s volleyball congratulate one another after scoring a point. The Bruins will take on the Antelopes, the third-best team in the nation, in this weekend’s doubleheader. (Lex Wang/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's Volleyball

Grand Canyon
Friday, 7 p.m.

Pauley Pavilion
UCLA Live Stream
Grand Canyon
Saturday, 5 p.m.

Pauley Pavilion
UCLA Live Stream

By Anthony Aroyan

April 4, 2024 11:03 a.m.

On the road to the postseason, two titans atop the MPSF standings will battle in Westwood.

No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (18-4, 7-1 MPSF) will face No. 3 Grand Canyon (20-2, 8-0) in Pauley Pavilion on Friday and Saturday with a chance to extend its longest winning streak of the season. This weekend’s clashes between the top two MPSF teams could potentially serve as a preview for the conference tournament.

Grand Canyon started the season as one of the hottest programs in collegiate volleyball, winning its first 15 matches – including back-to-back sweeps against No. 6 BYU, who defeated UCLA in late February. While the Antelopes have since proven to be beatable, both teams enter the weekend on winning runs.

Ethan Champlin said the matches will provide important challenges in the final weeks of the regular season.

“I’m looking forward to it – Grand Canyon is a good team, they’ve been playing well all year,” the senior outside hitter said. “They do some pretty unique things, so our scouting report is going to have to be catered to that. Win or lose, it’s going to be a great match.”

Champlin, who notched double-digit kills in four consecutive contests in March, has proved an offensive stalwart for the Bruins. His 160 kills on the season are good enough for second on the team – seven behind redshirt sophomore outside hitter Cooper Robinson.

The Antelopes also boast their fair share of talent, with players in the top five for aces, blocks and assists per set. Opposite Camden Gianni ranks second in aces per set with .643, middle blocker Cameron Thorne ranks fourth in blocks with 1.32 and setter Nicholas Slight is third in the nation with 10.6 assists a frame.

Coach John Speraw said the team will need to maintain service pressure on Grand Canyon to come out on top.

“I still see a bunch of things we can do offensively and defensively. I’d like to keep our service pressure on,” Speraw said. “It’s really about how we’re going to pass the ball and how we’re going to manage some of their servers.”

Outside hitter Grant Sloane has emerged an all-round linchpin for the Bruins. The redshirt junior earned 20 kills through last week’s series against Stanford while making his presence known on the defensive end with nine digs and seven blocks in the two affairs combined.

Sloane said an important element of UCLA’s improved performances late in the season can be seen in training.

“We finished up our huddle by reflecting on the week of practice that we had – it was some of the best practices we’ve had all year,” Sloane said after defeating Stanford on March 30. “We’re just trying to transfer that energy and keep it rolling into the next week, and we’re going to train as much as possible.”

No matter the result, Speraw said this weekend’s matches will be thrilling.

“They’re a great team, and they’re having a great season,” Speraw said. “I know they’re going to come in here with some real energy, and we’re going to have to match it.”

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Anthony Aroyan
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