- #2 UCLA Def. #7 Ohio State 3-2 (25-18, 22-25, 27-25, 24-26, 16-14)
- UCLA 7-0; Ohio State 3-2
- Los Angeles, California
- Box score
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – In the second match of the day in the AVCA Showcase and the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge, #2 UCLA came out victorious in a narrow five-set win against the two-time defending National Champions (#7 Ohio State). The win was also number 300 for UCLA head coach John Speraw.
After a grueling battle through four sets, the fifth decided everything. It lived up the billing and continued the trend of a match where no lead was safe.
Early in the fifth, UCLA went to their bread and butter in taking a 6-4 lead. They weren’t the only one to hook up with their stars though, as Nicolas Szerszen (21 kills, .311, 12 digs) notched two straight kills to tie at 6. The former Player of the Year also combined with Blake Leeson (5 kills, 4 blocks) for a block to take an 8-7 edge at the switch. UCLA used the break to reset and went on a 5-2 run capped with a Dylan Missry (3 kills, 10 digs) kill, but an Ohio State timeout ignited a stretch for them where they won four of five and led 14-13. UCLA had one last timeout and used it. Micah Ma’a (47 assists, 8 digs, 6 blocks, 4 kills) connected with JT Hatch (16 kills, 9 digs) to tie and Missry continued his strong set with an ace. Then the Bruins got a block from the combination of Oliver Martin (5 kills) and Christian Hessenauer (19 kills, 13 digs, 4 blocks) to come out with an incredible five-set victory.
Just as the fifth was tight, the first four sets pushed each team to the limit as well.
The Bruins jumped on Ohio State early, taking the first five points. The Buckeyes would actually come back to tie at 8 after a Jake Hanes (18 kills, 5 digs) kill, but another flurry of UCLA points pushed them ahead 17-10. Daenan Gyimah (9 kills, .500, 7 blocks) eventually ended the opening game with a kill at 25-18.
The Buckeyes came to play in set two – a game that consisted of 15 ties and four lead changes. Ohio State led 21-18 late, but a block by Gyimah and Hessenauer helped tighten things to 21-20. A Bruins serve error was followed by a Szerszen kill for Ohio State to stretch it back out. Another Szerszen point made it 24-21 before Leeson ended things on a kill at 25-22.
The third was more of the same with 16 ties and six lead changes and was even at 22 late. A Ma’a and Gyimah block gave UCLA a short-lived lead that Ohio State ended with a Szerszen kill and Leeson/Maxime Hervoir (4 kills) block. Trailing to set point, the Bruins went to Hatch to tie at 24. A Ma’a error put them behind the eight ball again at 25-24, but three consecutive Buckeye errors switched everything and gave UCLA the set 27-25.
It was only right that the fourth continued the same theme with 13 ties and six more lead changes. One of those occurred after UCLA was up 19-17 as Ohio State went on a 6-2 run. Trailing 23-21, UCLA utilized a 3-0 run of their own to take match point at 24-23. Showing the heart of a champion, the Buckeyes rattled off three unanswered of their own as Hanes put down the final point on an ace at 26-24.
In total for the match, UCLA hit .238 to .113 and had more digs (56-51) and blocks (13.5 to 8). Ohio State had two more aces while UCLA had eight more serve errors, but the Bruins continued their strategy of not worrying about those numbers to keep the opposition out of system more often.
The win is UCLA’s second five-setter over top-end competition, after they squeaked one out against UC Irvine as well. It’s also Ohio State’s second loss early this year after losing just a pair of matches all season in 2017.
UCLA now heads to Honolulu next week for a pair of matches with another highly ranked opponent in the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. For Ohio State, they head home for a week with two top-15 squads in Saint Francis and Penn State.
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