Tuesday, May 21, 2024

NewsSportsArtsOpinionThe QuadPhotoVideoIllustrationsCartoonsGraphicsThe StackPRIMEEnterpriseInteractivesPodcastsBruinwalkClassifieds


USAC Elections 2024SJP and UC Divest Coalition Demonstrations at UCLA

UCLA men’s volleyball drops MPSF title matchup to Grand Canyon

Members of UCLA men’s volleyball huddle during the MPSF finals. Coach John Speraw’s unit fell to No. 2 seed Grand Canyon in five sets Saturday night. (Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)

Men’s volleyball

No. 1 seed UCLA2
No. 2 Grand Canyon3

By Amelie Ionescu

April 20, 2024 9:29 p.m.

This post was updated April 21 at 9:43 p.m. 

Emotions are volatile. 

They’re strong.

And on the volleyball court, they’re prominent.

No. 1 seed UCLA men’s volleyball (23-5, 11-1 MPSF) and No. 2 seed Grand Canyon (25-4, 10-2) expressed them intensely throughout the teams’ five-set conference final matchup. And at the end of the day, it was the Lopes who left their hearts on the court to pick up their first-ever conference title.

Their strategy, John Speraw said, was what solidified Saturday night’s outcome.

“They put a ton of pressure on us,” the coach said. “They executed tactically against us very, very well.” 

Determination was painted on every player as the national anthem played – two lines of focused gazes and set features. In the duo’s last meeting, the Bruins swept the season series at Pauley Pavilion to all but clinch the top seed in the conference tournament. 

But the UCLA crowd didn’t adorn stands at the Galen Center. Instead, it was roughly even between purple and blue, with apprehension for the first set’s outcome heavy in the air.

It shouldn’t have been. 

A commanding lead to commence the frame slipped into an easy win for Grand Canyon, with redshirt senior Merrick McHenry picking up over a quarter of UCLA’s points. The middle blocker saw double with two kills and two aces as an upset already appeared on the horizon.

“It really came down to how we started each set,” Speraw said. “In football, nothing really matters in the first five minutes – you have 55 minutes to go, and half the people aren’t in the stadium. In volleyball, you better come to play because the whole outcome of the match was probably determined from the first seven points.”

Anger flamed up in McHenry’s middle blocker counterpart on the other side of the net – Cameron Thorne – as UCLA began to pick up its pieces and get comfortable in the second. Up 9-7, a Bruin fumble left Thorne glaring daggers and vocalizing discontent at the referee, who called him over to defuse the tension.

It didn’t matter. UCLA clinched the last two points off redshirt sophomore outside hitter Cooper Robinson’s kills to achieve a tied ball game.

As the outcome of the third frame became apparent, excitement overcame the Lopes’ bench – spreading to even their coaching staff, who pulled some overzealous players off the court. Up by more than five midway through, Grand Canyon clung onto its lead to claim the slate 25-17. 

Zach Rama popped in courtesy of Speraw’s flurry of substitutions to counteract the purple onslaught, but at 9-5, the key points of the set were already left in the dust.

“It’s just great to get out there and feel it,” the sophomore outside hitter said. “Everybody’s got my back, even though I’m not always out there as a starter, and … I just feel very confident and felt all of the support of my teammates out there.”

Outside hitter Zach Rama attempts to puncture through a Grand Canyon block. The sophomore led all Bruins with 14 kills Saturday night. (Lex Wang/Daily Bruin senior staff)

But an early 2-0 standing in the fourth set slipped out of the Lopes’ grasp, leaving pain in its wake. Grand Canyon setter Nicholas Slight, named Player of the Tournament, tumbled in an attempt to keep the ball alive, prompting a replay and cheers from both sides of the stadium as he rose on his own. 

And with the help of Rama, UCLA clinched the frame to force a fifth. He led the Bruins with 14 kills on a .550 hitting clip.

Fellow outside hitter Ethan Champlin noted the impact of the line in a match where Grand Canyon doubled UCLA’s aces and almost halved its errors.

“We lost where they were rolling,” the senior said. “If we stopped some of their serves that weren’t very tough, it would have been a different outcome.”


Opposite Camden Gianni, Slight, Thorne, the entire Lopes bench, the staff on court, the coaches, the liberos, the outside hitters and the middle blockers – every single player decorated in purple and white felt it after clinching a 14-8 lead in the fifth set, with libero Cooper Herndon falling and clutching his head in ecstasy.

Grand Canyon’s first-ever conference championship was palpable. Even as UCLA picked up a few more points, its opposition’s victory was undeniable. 

And with pumping fists, cheers and hugs, it became a reality. 

Share this story:FacebookTwitterRedditEmail
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.
Featured Classifieds
Apartments for Rent

WESTWOOD VILLAGE Large 1BR 1 Bath $2,700 (includes 1 parking space). ONLY TWO LEFT!!! Available July 1 and September 1. Beautifully landscaped courtyard building, laundry room, pool, elevator, subterranean garage. 691 Levering Avenue leveringheights.com (310) 208-3647

More classifieds »
Related Posts