LOS ANGELES -- Tenth-ranked UCLA clinched a spot in the MPSF tournament with a win against third-ranked BYU in four sets on Saturday night in a jam-packed Wooden Center. Scores of the match were 25-23, 23-25, 25-13, 25-20. UCLA improved its record to 18-10 on the year and its 15-9 mark was good for the fifth-seed into the league playoffs. The Bruins will square off with fourth-seeded UC Santa Barbara on Saturday in Santa Barbara.
Both teams hit above .350 in a hotly-contested first set. BYU jumped out to a 2-6 lead, forcing a quick timeout from the home bench. After a Mitch Stahl kill, a couple Gonzalo Quiroga aces and a Spencer Rowe spike, the score was even at six. Another Stahl kill ended one of the longest rallies of the season and handed UCLA a 7-6 lead. The one-point margin would be its biggest cushion of the set until the end. Another Quiroga ace pushed UCLA into a 23-22 lead. A BYU kill forced the 17th tie of the set to even things up at 23-all. The Cougars then surrendered a point on a service error. The Bruins took set one on Steve O’Dell’s kill at the net.
BYU grabbed another 2-6 lead to begin the second set. It took longer for UCLA to get things even, but a Stahl ace did the trick for a 14-all tie. The Cougars went up 15-17, but UCLA knotted the score at 17 after an attack error. The score was tied at 18 following a Cougar service error. However, the next three points belonged to BYU, and soon the set did as well, by a 23-25 margin.
UCLA exploded out to a 12-3 advantage in set three behind the strong service game of freshman Stahl, who recorded three aces in a six-point spree. An ace from Robart Page made it 16-6 and a couple of aces from Quiroga made it 22-10. The Bruins owned the set 25-13 after outhitting the Cougars .429 to .077.
The Cougars took a 0-4 lead to begin set four. Following a Bruin timeout, UCLA rallied to tie the score at 6-all on a kill by Trent Kersten. The scored was level at sevens and at nines before UCLA moved into the lead for good at 10-9 on a Quiroga kill. O’Dell made a key block for a 15-12 edge. Rowe added another block to make it 20-16. A Quiroga ace, the Bruins’ school record tying 14th of the contest, had UCLA in front 23-17. A BYU service error put the Cougars on the brink of termination and a kill from Rowe ended the Senior Night match at 25-20.
Quiroga led the team with 14 kills. Stahl and Quiroga each recorded six of the UCLA total of 14 service aces. Page added 13 kills and a couple of aces. Rowe totaled 10 kills, nine digs and three blocks. Kersten chipped in with seven kills and three blocks. The Bruins owned the nets with a block advantage of 10.5 to 4.0 on the evening. O’Dell had 42 set assists and a couple of blocks. Jackson Bantle recorded a team-high 10 digs.
The Bruins, seeded fifth, will play next Saturday in the quarterfinal round of the MPSF Tournament at No. 4 seed UC Santa Barbara. The teams split a pair of matches during the regular season. Eighth-seeded Southern California will be at No. 1 BYU. On the other side of the bracket, No. 6 UC Irvine will play at No. 3 Stanford. Second-seeded Pepperdine hosts No. 7 Long Beach State.