In the biggest match of the season, top-seeded UCLA found an unlikely hero.
J.R. Norris IV, a sixth-year senior from suburban Los Angeles, came off the bench in his final game for his hometown team. But, when called upon, the veteran middle blocker made his minutes count, logging five service aces and eight kills, while hitting an impressive .727.
Norris was far from the only star for UCLA in their 3-1 national championship victory over No. 2 Hawaii. Three Bruins, Ido David, Alex Knight and Merrick McHenry, logged double-digit kills. David led all players with a staggering 23 kills, while hitting .298.
Freshman Andrew Rowan, another LA area native, made the biggest match of his life count, putting up 60 assists in his national championship debut.
The Bruins depth of talent was on display all afternoon, like it was all season. The tremendous depth across the court was the primary reason the team lost just two of their 33 contests.
UCLA seemed in control from the beginning against Hawaii. Winning the first set and going up 19-13 late in the second, it seemed like the Bruins were primed to sweep the championship match. But Hawaii’s late run in the second set and some defensive success brought the Warriors back into the contest with a 33-31 win in set two, evening the match at one set apiece.
But, UCLA regained their early form, winning the final two sets by the same score, 25-21 to win a rather stress-free national title.
UCLA wins its record 20th #NCAAMVB Championship, beating Hawai’i, 3-1! 🏆 #GoBruins | #UCLA121 pic.twitter.com/gCUBsVZaks
— UCLA M. Volleyball (@UCLAMVB) May 6, 2023
This becomes UCLA’s 20th national title in program history, 15 more than Pepperdine, whose five national championships are good for second amongst all programs.
Hawaii had won the previous two national championships, falling just short of a third straight.
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