Tuesday, 20 February 2024
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UCLA bounces back with NCAA men’s volleyball win over Penn State

UCLA bounces back with NCAA men's volleyball win over Penn State

Penn State’s John Kerr hits against the UCLA triple block, from left, of Alex Knight, Sean McQuiggan and Ido David/Scott Clause photo

AUSTIN, Texas — First and foremost, UCLA coach John Speraw was happy to get a win after the No. 1 and defending national-champion Bruins were upset Friday by No. 4 Ohio State in the First Point Collegiate Challenge.

But, as champions often do, the Bruins pulled themselves off the mat and dispatched No. 7 Penn State 25-20, 25-19, 25-15 Saturday. UCLA led the entire first set, led the second set after seizing the lead at 5-4 and the remainder of the third set after pulling ahead 7-6.

The volleyball coach in Speraw was pleased with the way his team bounced back after losing in a reverse sweep the day before.

“When you return a lot of players, the presumption is that the cake is already baked,” Speraw said. “And I can tell you, this cake is not close to being baked. … You’ve got to work at it. It doesn’t just happen.

“I’m happy with the way we came through this weekend, and I think we learned a lot. I think we know we can get significantly better.”

Having said that, Speraw said this group has more depth than any team he has coached. That was on full display as several lesser-used players contributed to the win. Sophomore outside hitter Zach Rama came off the bench to produce six kills with no errors in eight attacks to go with a solo block. Sophomore middle blocker Sean McQuiggan — all 6-foot-11 of him — started and had four kills on four errorless seven swings and had three blocks and two digs.

Junior opposite Grant Sloane, junior libero Hideharu Nakamura, freshman outside Luca Curci and redshirt senior setter David Flores also showed up on the stat sheet.

Of course some of the usual suspects played a big role. Senior outside Alex Knight, the MVP of the NCAA Championship last May who played sparingly against Ohio State, led with nine kills, hitting .471, and had an assist, three blocks and three digs. Texan Merrick McHenry, a rsenior middle, was perfect on five swings and had an ace and two blocks. Junior opposite Ido David had six kills, a match-high three aces, two assists, two blocks and a dig. Setter Andrew Rowan had a kill in two errorless tries, 23 assists, two blocks and four digs. His team hit .354 and had five aces and 15 errors, half the serving mistakes as the day before.

Penn State coach Mark Pavlik knew coming into the season that there might be some struggles as his lineup got used to playing…

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