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UCLA men’s volleyball celebrates seniors, sweeps Concordia University Irvine

The seven graduating seniors of UCLA men’s volleyball are pictured. While not all have confirmed their destinations for next year, the veteran crew has further sculpted the Bruins’ legacy in their respective tenures. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

Men's Volleyball

Concordia University Irvine0
No. 2 UCLA3

By Amelie Ionescu

April 14, 2024 12:23 p.m.

This post was updated April 14 at 9:22 p.m.

Merrick McHenry knocked down a block assist to clinch the first set for the Bruins.

Quickly after, the redshirt senior middle blocker put his hands to his face and sprinted to the locker rooms before reemerging on the other side.

Saturday marked his last night in Pauley Pavilion. Showered with appreciation, fans, family and friends, McHenry felt the emotion.

“It’s really meaningful for all of us,” said coach John Speraw.

No. 2 UCLA men’s volleyball (22-4, 11-1 MPSF) swept Concordia University Irvine (6-18, 0-12) as seven seniors likely saw their last appearance donning the blue and gold at home.

But McHenry hasn’t just left his mark on fans – he’s left it on UCLA’s all-time scoresheet, overtaking the slot for most solo career blocks and highest hitting percentage in the rally-scoring era.

The two-time AVCA First Team All-American also landed himself in the top 10 for most block assists and total blocks.

(Darlene Sanzon/Daily Bruin)
Redshirt senior outside hitter Alex Knight elevates for a kill as redshirt senior middle blocker Merrick McHenry soars in the air behind him. The two played their final game together in Pauley Pavilion on Saturday. (Darlene Sanzon/Daily Bruin)

Fellow redshirt senior Alex Knight, outside hitter-turned-libero and the most outstanding player of last year’s NCAA tournament, tallied 10 kills in his first appearance as a pin since late February.

“It was my senior night, so the coaches let me play outside for one more time,” Knight said. “We had a good game plan going into this one, and at the end of the year we want to play our best volleyball. We’re doing that exactly right now.”

Rounding out the trio of graduating offensive stalwarts, Ethan Champlin will assume a top-10 position in the record books in service aces, kills, attacks and points. The outside hitter – named a finalist for the Sullivan award – tallied nine digs and an ace Saturday.

UCLA’s seniors totaled 50.5 of the team’s 55.5 points en route to its 3-0 landslide win.

“We’ve obviously been through a lot together,” Knight said. “I’ve been here for five years, been with these guys for a long time, so they’re some of my best friends in the whole world, and it’s been great to go through this battle with them.”

With one start and 32 sets this season, David Flores hasn’t been a consistent face on the court, but the redshirt senior provided the Bruins a reliable backup setter when necessary and picked up six assists on the night.

(Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)
On Saturday’s Senior Night, UCLA men’s volleyball completed a back-to-back sweep of Concordia University Irvine in the teams’ season series. The Bruins have the No. 1 seed in this week’s MPSF tournament. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

Redshirt juniors outside hitter Grant Sloane and middle blocker Guy Genis will retain collegiate eligibility at the close of the season, with the former having a breakout season ranked 18th in the nation in hitting percentage, and the latter finishing the 2023 season as an All-American and All-MPSF pick.

“Was a great ride,” Genis said. “I loved every minute here. I learned a lot about volleyball, about friendship, about being a good teammate. We always have each other’s back on and off the court.”

Unlike the four who’ve made future plans clear, where Ayrton Garcia-Jurado, Sloane and Genis will end up in 2025 remains a question.

“It’s bittersweet in any of these situations where you have such a group of young men who’ve just made such an impact on the program and with whom you have such good relationships,” Speraw said. “And to see them move on is … really it’s worth noting, reflection and gratitude for all that they’ve given to the program.”

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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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