The No. 3 UCLA men’s volleyball team has won eight of its last nine matches, and has clinched a spot in the MPSF Tournament with a 19-10 overall record. But before the Bruins can get to postseason preparation, they have one more match to play this Friday when hated L.A. rival USC pays a visit to Pauley Pavilion.
The Trojans, who were national runners-up in 2012, have fallen on hard times this year and have no postseason play in their future. Southern Cal is an ugly 6-17 on the season, which includes a clean-sweep loss to the Bruins at the Galen Center in February. And yet, because of the West Coast’s ridiculous dominance in collegiate volleyball, USC is only one spot outside the national rankings and owns five wins against the current AVCA Top 10.
So for UCLA, tomorrow’s regular season finale should be treated like a vital rivalry game, rather than a tune-up against a conference cupcake. If the Bruins come out flat like they did last week against now-No. 5 Cal-Baptist, they could end up on the wrong side of a vindicating Trojan victory.
To make sure the team is psyched up for the match, the UCLA athletics department has called for another “blue-out” from those in attendance. The new concept, which is essentially just wearing the school’s colors to the game, was first introduced for the USC basketball game back in January. Unfortunately, the Trojans stunned the Bruins and stole a win at Pauley in spite of the color-coded crowd. Here’s to hoping the results are different in take two.
If UCLA can get past ‘SC and make it to the MPSF Tournament Championship, the Bruins should get an invite to compete in the NCAA Tournament, which will be held at Pauley in May. For first-year head coach John Speraw, this season presents a unique opportunity to secure his fourth-career national title as a coach, and his first with his alma mater, all in the friendly confines of his home arena.
Speraw, who also coaches the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team, replaced 50-year veteran Al Scates on the Bruins’ sidelines after last season. Before taking the post with UCLA, Speraw was head honcho at UC Irvine, where he led the Anteaters to three national titles. The most recent title came in 2012, when UCI swept past Southern Cal at the Galen Center to claim the crown. If Speraw can bring that kind of expertise with him to Westwood, he’ll likely add volleyball banner No. 20 to the rafters for UCLA sometime very soon.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are steal plenty of sets to be played before the Bruins can dream of hoisting another trophy. First, they have to get past the pesky Trojans, and that should be the sole focus for now. The match is slated to start at 7:30 p.m. PT, and it will be broadcast by the Pac-12 Networks.
Let’s fill Pauley this Friday to support our squad! And don’t forget to don the True Blue! Go Bruins!