Wednesday, April 14

Men’s volleyball sweeps Grand Canyon in final conference series on the road

Redshirt senior outside hitter/setter Sam Kobrine had 84 assists on the weekend as No. 6 UCLA men's volleyball defeated No. 9 Grand Canyon twice on the road. (Elise Tsai/Daily Bruin staff)

Men's Volleyball

No. 6 UCLA3
No. 9 Grand Canyon2
No. 6 UCLA3
No. 9 Grand Canyon1

Multiple Bruins said the blue and gold have hit their stride.

No. 6 UCLA men’s volleyball (13-4) defeated No. 9 Grand Canyon (4-10) in back-to-back matches this weekend in Phoenix, winning 3-2 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday.

Friday’s match began with the Bruins dropping the opening two sets to the Antelopes by a combined four points. In the third set, coach John Speraw adjusted by putting redshirt sophomore opposite/outside hitter Kevin Kobrine in the game.

Coming into the match with a season high of one kill, Kobrine broke his previous personal records with a career-high 16 kills and no errors while hitting .800. Redshirt freshman outside hitter/opposite Merrick McHenry, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s leader in hitting percentage, led UCLA in kills with 18 on 32 swings as the Bruins completed the reverse sweep, hitting .484 in the final three sets.

“I thought in a lot of ways (Kevin) and Merrick carried us yesterday to a really important victory,” Speraw said. “I put (Kevin) in when we were down 0-2, and he really made that victory possible.”

On Saturday, UCLA got off to a faster start, winning the first two sets en route to taking the match in four. Six different Bruins got double-digit attack opportunities, as redshirt senior outside hitter Austin Matautia, redshirt junior middle blocker Ian Parish and sophomore outside hitter/opposite Cole Ketrzynski led the way with 12, 10 and nine kills, respectively.

Kevin Kobrine pitched in eight kills and four aces, while his older brother redshirt senior outside hitter/setter Sam Kobrine – the MPSF’s leader in assists per set – contributed 36 assists and nine digs.

“It makes it harder for the defense if everyone is involved,” Sam Kobrine said. “Any strategy is possible at any given time, so it makes it much harder for the defense to have any sort of strategy towards us.”

Speraw agreed with the importance of getting meaningful contributions from everybody on the roster.

“We needed (junior outside hitter Ian Eschenberg) and (redshirt junior setter Adam Parks) coming out and serving, and (redshirt sophomore middle blocker Daniel Matheney) came in great yesterday, and we used (sophomore libero Cole Power) a lot more on defense,” Speraw said. “This is about as much of a team effort on a two-victory weekend stand that we’ve maybe ever had. I just think everyone’s doing a great job contributing to important wins.”

With the victories this weekend, UCLA has won four consecutive matches and eight of its last nine. The team is currently placed second in the MPSF standings, behind only No. 2 BYU.

“(We’re hitting our stride) 100 percent,” Sam Kobrine said. “It’s a shortened season so we didn’t have as many games in the preseason to see where we’re at, but we’ve done a really good job finding out our strengths and weaknesses and seeing what we could improve on.”

Next week, the Bruins will finish their regular season with back-to-back matches against the Cougars. The battles between the top two teams in the MPSF will occur Friday and Saturday, both beginning at 5 p.m.

Sports contributor

Deng is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball and cross country beats. He was previously a contributor on the women's volleyball and track & field beats.

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.