Sophomore setter Bryce Dvorak (No. 8) sets up graduate outside hitter Austin Wilmot (No. 20) for a kill versus UCLA on April 7. Wilmot finished with four kills while Dvorak had 36 assists. Photos by Denver Patterson
No. 8 Men’s Volleyball lost a tough match to No. 1 UCLA April 7 in three sets (25-19, 30-28, 25-22).
Though the season has been an up-and-down battle, Pepperdine gained some rhythm with a three-game win streak against BYU and back-to-back wins over Concordia in March.
With the regular season wrapping up, the Waves hoped to grab a win against the top team in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation with three games remaining in the regular season.
“I think the rest of our matches are important and we know we [have] to win in the playoffs,” Head Coach David Hunt said. “So, I don’t think we looked at this one any differently. We just didn’t play our best volleyball match.”
Though graduate outside hitter Jaylen Jasper posted a team-high 18 kills, the team struggled offensively and finished with a .167 hitting percentage.
The Bruins started the first set on a 4-1 scoring run. The Bruins aided the Waves’ effort with four straight errors. It wasn’t until a kill from redshirt sophomore Jacob Steele from the back row got the Waves their first actual point, with the score at 7-5 favoring the Bruins.
Sophomore middle blocker Anderson Fuller converted on a kill after a long rally — but the Waves stopped the Bruins offensive attack, as the Bruins went on a 5-1 run before a media timeout.
“We knew their individual tendencies and what they wanted to do, and we were all over that,” Hunt said. “It’s just we didn’t play very well on our side. So, I think going into the next one against them, we have to clean up some of the stuff that we do and be a little bit better.”
With the score at 15-10 and the Waves down early, kills from graduate outside hitter Austin Wilmot and Jasper helped the cause, but the Bruins lead bloomed.
The Waves’ last-ditch attempt resulted in three points in a row, thanks to Jasper and junior outside hitter Akin Akinwumi, but the effort fell short with the Bruins earning the first set at 25-19.
The Waves came out of the first set and stunned the Bruins. Graduate student outside hitter Alex Gettinger cranked a 63.1 MPH serve that would lead to a Waves’ kill to start the set 4-1.
“We all knew that we could compete,” Akinwumi said. “Us responding in the second set is part of our identity.”
UCLA capitalized on Pepperdine’s three service errors and two offensive errors to crawl back from the deficit and tie the score 12-12, forcing the Waves to take a timeout to slow the momentum shift.
“We made a lot of service errors and hitting errors,” Akinwumi said. “That’s not characteristic of us and usually we’re very consistent.”
The teams went back and forth until Steele hit the ball out of the court, forcing an attack error. Immediately after, Gettinger would hit the ball out of the court in a backrow attack, leading to a 15-16 score.
The Waves continued to trail behind until Steele took control of the set with three consecutive kills forcing a Bruins’ timeout. Coming out of the timeout, sophomore setter Bryce Dvorak rushed to the back right of the court to set Steele on the outside, tying the score 24-24.
Pepperdine continued to give their full effort, as Steele crashed into the press box and television screens for an unsuccessful dig. The Bruins eventually took the second set in a 30-28 overtime.
With the Waves upset over losing the tough second set, the Waves got down early in the third set with the Bruins going on a 5-1 run.
Though the Bruins got a kill from redshirt junior opposite Kevin Kobrine — the points from the run were self-inflicted errors.
A service error from UCLA sophomore outside hitter Ethan Champlin, a kill from Jasper and an attack error from Korbine drew the Waves closer with the score at 7-5. The two teams traded points and the score was 13-9 at the media timeout.
“It’s not so much changing up— it’s seeing what they’re doing and with Jaylen [Jasper] struggling, we had to look to some other guys and Alex [Gettinger] started off a little slow and then got it going late,” Hunt said.
At this point of the game, the two teams converted on 34 kills each, but the Bruins led the ace battle, eventually besting the Waves’ ace effort with six aces to the Waves’ three.
With the score at 16-12, Dvorak logged a monster service ace, registered at 70.2 MPH. Firestone Fieldhouse exploded in approval, and the Waves hoped to bounce back into the set.
But the Bruins responded with a 5-2 run, and the Waves could not climb back into the set. Though the Waves tried a final rally, the Bruins won the set with a score of 25-22.
“Sets two and three, we were right there,” Hunt said. “And we weren’t even close to playing our best volleyball. So, we’ll make some changes. We’ll make the adjustments that we need to make, and we’ll see how it goes on Saturday.”
The Bruins swept the Waves on Saturday, April 9 in three sets 25-23, 25-19, 25-19.
The Waves take on Stanford on Thursday, April 14 at Firestone Fieldhouse.
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