MVB Advances to NCAA Semifinals on Thursday
The UCLA men's volleyball team (22-4) advanced to Thursday's National Collegiate Men's Volleyball Semifinals with an Opening Round win on Tuesday night against Pepperdine in a battle of the two programs with the most NCAA titles won in the sport. UCLA, which owns 19 NCAA men's volleyball titles, defeated the Waves, who have won five championships, in four sets on its home court of Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom. Scores of the contest were 25-23, 22-25, 26-24, 25-19. The Bruins will move on to play top-seeded Long Beach State in Semifinal No. 1 on Thursday night at 5 p.m. The two teams split the regular season matches this season with each squad winning on its home court.
Kevin Kobrine led a balanced UCLA attack with a season-high 16 kills. Ethan Champlin added 8 kills while Merrick McHenry added 7 kills and 6 blocks. The Bruins received big lifts off the bench from Sam Burgi, who equaled his career-high with six kills, and J.R. Norris IV, who chipped in with 4 kills, an ace and his first block solo of the season. The Bruins, who connected at a .437 attack percentage, hit at least .400 in a match for the 12th time this season and at least .300 for the 17th straight outing.
UCLA is competing in its 28th NCAA Tournament and has now compiled a 55-9 overall record, including a won-loss mark of 28-2 in matches played in Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom. It has advanced to its 12th National Semifinal match to be played on its home court. UCLA has won all previous semifinal matches played in Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom and gone on to capture the national title on nine occasions. Head Coach John Speraw is now 9-3 in NCAA matches (3-2 at UCLA) and has won national championships while at UC Irvine in 2007, 2009 and 2012.
In set one, UCLA used a 4-0 spurt to open up an 8-3 lead. After Pepperdine closed to 13-10, the Bruins took advantage of Wave errors for a three-point run to go up 16-10. After a McHenry/Kobrine block UCLA led 18-14. Alex Knight's spike made it 22-19. The Waves cranked up the service game to help pull even at 23-all. McHenry/Miles Partain/Champlin combined on a block for a 24-23 edge. Pepperdine was into the net on set point for a 25-23 Bruin win.
Pepperdine started strong in set two and led 5-8 in the early going. A couple of Wave errors helped UCLA pull within one, at 10-11. Grant Sloane's block and kill lifted UCLA in front 15-14. The Waves rallied to retake the lead at 17-20. A Burgi kill and a couple of Pepp errors allowed UCLA to level the score at 20. Bruin errors returned the Waves to the lead at 20-23. A Bruin service error ended the set at 22-25.
Champlin's swing tied the score at 5-all in set three. Pepperdine then moved out to a 6-8 advantage. After UCLA pulled even at 8-all neither team then led by more than one until the score was tied at 20-all. A McHenry swing and a Wave error put UCLA up by 22-20. Pepperdine came back to tie the score at 23. Ido David's kill pushed UCLA up 24-23. Norris IV's spike broke a 24-all tie and was followed up by Burgi's set-winning swing for a 26-24 victory.
UCLA opened up an 8-5 edge to start set four. A Kobrine kill left the Bruins in front 13-10. After Pepperdine closed to 14-13, Miles Partain answered with a kill. Kills by Champlin and Kobrine made it 18-15. Another Burgi kill pushed UCLA into a 22-18 advantage. A Kobrine kill, McHenry block and Norris IV ace ended the set at 25-19.