After a clean sweep of the hated USC Trojans last Friday, the No. 4 UCLA men’s volleyball team secured its ninth win in 10 contests, and is set for its first postseason match of the 2013 season.
The Bruins, who dropped a spot in the AVCA Poll despite a perfect week of play, will host the No. 5 Pepperdine Waves at the John Wooden Center on Saturday night. The match would normally be held in Pauley Pavilion, but the NCAA Championship meet for gymnastics (which UCLA will compete in) takes priority that day.
Under the guidance of first-year head coach John Speraw, UCLA posted a 20-10 overall record, which included 13 wins over teams currently ranked in the national poll. If the Bruins can make a nice run through the MPSF Tournament and land a spot in the four-team NCAA Tournament, Speraw’s first season would no doubt be a successful one.
The road to the championship begins this weekend against Pepperdine, a team that UCLA has already played and beaten twice. The Bruins swept the Waves in Malibu back in February before pulling out another 3-0 victory in Westwood just last week. Interestingly, the sets in Pauley were significantly more competitive than those at Pepperdine, so UCLA needs to have a sense of urgency when the Waves show up for the third pairing.
If UCLA can get past Pepperdine again, the Bruins would play the winner of No. 1 Brigham Young vs. No 8 Hawaii. If the top-ranked Cougars win, UCLA would have to travel to Provo, Utah for the game on Thursday. If the Warriors manage to pull the upset, they would visit lower-seeded UCLA for the semifinal match-up.
All signs indicate that BYU will win though, as the Cougars already own a 2-0 record over Hawaii this year. But really, this is a tough draw for the Bruins either way.
In the regular season, UCLA split the series with BYU (each team swept on its home court) and lost 2-of-3 to the Warriors, including a 3-2 defeat at Pauley. No matter which squad comes out on top in that quarterfinal, the Bruins will need to bring their A(ce)-game when they play next Thursday.
But let’s not get too hasty. UCLA still needs to take care of business versus the Waves, who are plenty capable in their own right. Despite an overall record of 14-11, Pepperdine has recorded eight wins over currently ranked teams, including decisions over No. 1 BYU, No. 2 LBSU and No. 3 UC-Irvine. The Waves will not be intimidated playing in Westwood, so the Bruins better come out looking to put it away early. Assuming they can, it’ll be onto the next one in pursuit of UCLA’s 20th men’s volleyball national title.