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UCLA men’s volleyball secures conference lead with 5-set Grand Canyon victory

Redshirt senior Merrick McHenry goes over the head of two Grand Canyon blockers for a kill. The middle blocker – alongside his counterpart in redshirt sophomore Sean McQuiggan – propelled UCLA men’s volleyball to a five-set victory Saturday evening. (Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)

Men's Volleyball


No. 3 Grand Canyon2
No. 2 UCLA3

By Ira Gorawara and Amelie Ionescu

April 7, 2024 9:12 p.m.

This post was updated April 7 at 9:22 p.m.

John Speraw is known for his love of substitutions.

And given the depth of the coach’s bench, it’s no surprise he uses it to its fullest extent.

No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (20-4, 9-1 MPSF) utilized 12 different players to cement a season sweep over No. 3 Grand Canyon (20-4, 8-2) in its seventh five-setter of 2024 on Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion. The victory ensured the Bruins eclipsed the Antelopes for sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the MPSF after Friday’s victory brought the teams to a tie.

Despite being outhit .377 to .312, outdug 42 to 39 and outblocked nine to eight, UCLA commanded the fifth set to secure its ninth straight win.

“Our service pressure was, again, maybe the biggest factor in the volleyball match,” Speraw said. “Certainly after a tough fourth set loss, to come back and play as well as we did in the fifth set I thought was a real positive.”

Before a decisive fifth set – one where the Bruins boasted a .500 hitting clip alongside just two errors – they couldn’t generate sufficient offensive production to commence the match.

Three consecutive service aces from outside hitter Grant Sloane in the first frame propelled UCLA into its first sizable lead of the match, but it wasn’t able to hold on – dropping the set in extra points 26-24. The redshirt junior stepped into the starting lineup early this season, locking it down by late February.

Nevertheless, Speraw yanked him from the court after posting a .160 clip through the first four sets – nearly .200 below his season average – for junior outside hitter/opposite Ido David. The First Team All-American garnered four kills to one error in his time on the court, alongside two digs.

Grand Canyon took a 5-3 lead in the fourth it would only expand on, pushing the statline as far as 20-11 and earning roars from the previously quieter purple-clad crowd.

“Any time you play twice a weekend, and you get a win against a good team, they’re going to come back and respond,” Speraw said. “Grand Canyon came back and played much better. We were able to find ways to win even in sets when we didn’t hit for a really high percentage.”

Redshirt senior middle blocker Merrick McHenry’s serving stint ensured UCLA wouldn’t let Grand Canyon take over unanswered. With the teams knotted at five, McHenry’s exhibition from the line spurred two kills, a block and two service aces to catapult UCLA to a 10-5 advantage.

Fellow middle blocker, Sean McQuiggan, exemplified the Bruin depth in the middle. The redshirt sophomore slammed home two kills late in the fifth set before UCLA captured its 15-8 set win and added Grand Canyon to its now-five-team list of 2024 series sweeps.

“We’ve been really effective in the middle of the court,” Speraw said. “It’s a strength of ours. Merrick is a really physically dominant middle, and McQuiggan has had an outstanding year. We have a lot of pieces on this team, but, in general, our middle attack has been great all year.”

With only two conference games left in the regular season, Saturday’s victory likely offered UCLA the No. 1 seed in the MPSF tournament and Speraw the confidence in his roster’s depth to confront the nation’s best.

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Ira Gorawara | Assistant Sports editor
Gorawara is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, men's tennis and rowing beats and is a Copy contributor. She was previously a reporter on the men's volleyball and rowing beats. She is also a second-year communication and economics student.
Gorawara is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, men's tennis and rowing beats and is a Copy contributor. She was previously a reporter on the men's volleyball and rowing beats. She is also a second-year communication and economics student.
Amelie Ionescu | Sports senior staff
Ionescu was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, swim and dive and rowing beats, and a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
Ionescu was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, swim and dive and rowing beats, and a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
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