Friday, February 21

                              Men’s volleyball defeats crosstown rival USC in first home win of season

                              Senior middle blocker Daenan Gyimah had 14 kills and hit for .600 as No. 8 UCLA men's volleyball took down USC in the Bruins' first match in Pauley Pavilion this season. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

                              Men's volleyball

                              No. 8 UCLA3

                              The Bruins avenged their most recent postseason loss.

                              No. 8 UCLA men’s volleyball (7-5, 2-2 MPSF) defeated rival USC (2-11, 0-4) in four sets, with a final score of 23-25, 25-22, 25-14, 25-19 on Sunday night in Pauley Pavilion.

                              The Trojans ended the Bruins’ 2019 season after the teams faced off in the MPSF semifinals. The squads split their other two matchups last year, with the home team winning each time.

                              Sophomore libero/outside hitter Cole Pender said the past history between the teams did not come into play on the court.

                              “It was a good win – that team’s good over there,” Pender said. “They served us tough in the first set, and we were able to bounce back. Our team really stuck together and focused on pulling that one out.”

                              The Bruins were leading for most of the first set and outhit the Trojans .464 to .385. However, four aces for USC helped the Trojans come out on top in the opening frame.

                              Coach John Speraw said the Bruins’ ability to rebound following the first-set loss is part of the process of his team continuing to grow from its early struggles.

                              “We’ve been able to bounce back not only within some of these matches but also between matches,” Speraw said. “So we haven’t always played perfectly, but … we’ve played some really poor matches and some poor sets and we have been able to come back, regroup and play well.”

                              UCLA took the next three sets, as USC’s hitting percentage fell off. The Trojans hit .286 in the second set and followed it up with a -.080 hitting percentage in the third. They rebounded to hit .259 in the final set but were unable to come out on top. UCLA outhit USC .391 to .212 over the entire match.

                              UCLA played 10 of its first 11 matches on the road and was in Pauley Pavilion for the first time in 2020. Senior middle blocker Daenan Gyimah said he was happy to be off the road and back on Nell and John Wooden Court.

                              “I love Pauley, it’s great to play here,” Gyimah said. “Especially first game here against (USC), getting to beat your crosstown rival, it’s great.”

                              Freshman outside hitter/opposite Cole Ketrzynski led the Bruins with 15 kills, and Gyimah was close behind with 14. Gyimah also had one of the Bruins’ seven service aces on the night.

                              Gyimah played in just his fourth match after returning from a head injury. Redshirt senior opposite Brandon Rattray made just his second appearance for the Bruins this season in the third set. After starting 19 games in 2019, he has had to sit because of injury since UCLA’s second match.

                              Speraw said Gyimah contributed majorly to the Bruins’ first home win of the season.

                              “Gyimah’s serving got a lot better today, which is a big part of his ability to contribute,” Speraw said. “He hit one serve today, it was the best serve I’ve ever seen him hit. He was out for three weeks. There’s a lot of room to improve and he’ll get better.”

                              UCLA will pause its conference slate to face No. 3 UCSB on Wednesday in Pauley Pavilion.

                              Assistant Sports editor

                              Perez is currently an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's water polo and track and field beats. He was previously a staff writer on the football, gymnastics, beach volleyball, women's water polo and men's water polo beats.

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