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Serving guides UCLA men’s volleyball to sweep of Concordia University Irvine

Redshirt senior Merrick McHenry slams a serve. The middle blocker helped kickstart UCLA’s second frame with two early service aces. (Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)

Men's Volleyball

No. 2 UCLA3
Concordia University Irvine0

By Anthony Aroyan

April 12, 2024 12:41 p.m.

John Speraw has long stressed serving as the key to winning volleyball games.

In his team’s latest match, the coach’s theory worked out.

“We played hard and we served the ball really well,” Speraw said. “There were a lot of really good serves and against some other teams, there would have been more aces. Our service game was outstanding.”

No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (21-4, 10-1 MPSF) swept Concordia University Irvine (6-17, 0-11) on Thursday, spurred on by nine service aces at CU Arena. With the victory, the Bruins are one step closer to securing the top seed in the MPSF before next week’s conference tournament.

The Bruins’ nine aces were a team effort – coming off the hands of five different players. Sophomore setter Andrew Rowan – who leads the team in the category with 34 – notched a hat-trick of aces toward the end of the opening set. His last of the three teetered the edge of the opposite sideline, handing his team a 23-10 lead.

“We’re hammering it out in practice a lot more than what we were,” Rowan said. “I think it’s just the practice and the reps carrying out our philosophy.”

Serving remained a mainstay of the Bruin offense in the first two frames. Opening the second set, redshirt senior middle blocker Merrick McHenry gave UCLA its second and third points from behind the service line.

Speraw said he has made a consistent effort to tweak lineups during and between matches, and Thursday night was no different. Following sporadic appearances on the court throughout the season, junior Ido David was part of the first six at CU Arena. The outside hitter/opposite finished with nine kills, two blocks and one ace on a .571 clip.

“This is going to be a team effort all the way down the stretch and we may need him,” Speraw said. “Whatever his role may be, there’s a lot of different ways we can use Ido. So for him to get out there and play more with Rowan was really valuable.”

Senior outside hitter Ethan Champlin buttressed David on the outside. The 2023 First Team AVCA All-American led the team in kills with 12, while adding to the ace count with a strike in the beginning of the second frame. Champlin also made his presence known on the defensive end with five digs, joint-highest alongside redshirt sophomore libero Matthew Aziz.

Defensively, the Bruins held the line throughout the match – limiting the Eagles to a .130 hitting percentage. UCLA also tallied 24 digs, doubling the opposition’s mark.

“A lot of it (defense) is a mindset,” Rowan said. “You got to be willing to hit the floor and fly around. And then it’s also about trusting your system, and that’s something we’re trying to emphasize and work on.”

The Bruins will face the Eagles once more on Saturday, hosting the Irvine team for their last match in Westwood in 2024. The team’s senior night will feature seven seniors, including Champlin, playing at Pauley Pavilion for the final time.

“It’s going to mean a lot to play my last game at Pauley as well as the other seniors,” Champlin said. “I’m going to miss the relationships that were built and being able to compete in such a historic gym”

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Anthony Aroyan
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