NCAA: UCLA men rout USC, Pepperdine beats Hawai’i in beach

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Carly Kan, hitting against Pepperdine's Deahna Kraft on Wednesday, is enjoying the transition from Missouri indoor to Hawai'i beach/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

The sixth-ranked UCLA men took care of business Wednesday by going across town and sweeping No. 11 USC, while in NCAA beach volleyball No. 2 Pepperdine beat visiting No. 5 Hawai’i 3-2.

It was an otherwise light day in college volleyball with much of the same ahead Thursday.

There are two MPSF matches on Thursday as No. 15 UC Santa Barbara (10-12, 5-9) goes to last-place Cal Baptist (6-18, 1-13) and next-to-last-place UC San Diego (7-15, 3-11) plays at No. 8 Pepperdine (8-10, 6-9). Pepperdine is currently in seventh place in the league, a half-game ahead of UCSB in the race to make the eight-team postseason tournament.

The other three Division I-II men’s leagues are off Thursday, although in the Conference Carolinas on Wednesday night Limestone beat North Greenville in four.

UCLA's Hagen Smith stretches for the tight pass/Ed Chan, VBshots.com
UCLA setter Hagen Smith stretches for the tight pass as he tries to get the ball to Oliver Martin/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

UCLA overpowers USC: The 25-18, 25-19, 25-17 beatdown left the Trojans 11-13 overall and 5-10 in the MPSF and in a precarious spot for postseason play. USC is in ninth place in the league, a game behind UCSB in the loss column. And UCSB comes to the Galen Center on Friday.

UCLA, rather, improved to 16-7, 9-6, as it won its sixth in a row and broke USC’s five matching winning streak, doing nothing to hurt its own chances for a possible at-large NCAA bid.

Jake Arnitz had 12 kills while hitting .632 and Dylan Missry added 10 kills, hit .471, and had four of his team’s eight aces for UCLA. Arnitz had five of his team’s 20 service errors but also three blocks. Mitch Stahl had seven kills, hit .556, an ace and three errors, and a whopping nine block assists. Setter Hagen Smith had nine digs and three aces as the Bruins played a 5-1 without Micah Ma’a.

UCLA's Mitch Stahl scored 7 kills, 9 blocks, and one ace/Ed Chan, VBshots.com
UCLA’s Mitch Stahl goes up for one of his seven kills against USC/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

“I like our blocking defense,” UCLA coach John Speraw said. “We’ve been spending a lot of time on it in the last two weeks.

“We just have to go out and try and be better defensively. I thought we saw that particularly tonight, I thought we were in some good spots.”

Lucas Yoder, seeing his first action after six-match layoff while resting an abdominal strain, had eight kills for USC but hit .053, while Andy Benesh added five blocks and Matt Douglas had seven digs. Their team hit .088, while the Bruins hit .373. USC also had no aces but 12 errors, four by Benesh.

Pepperdine's Delaney Knudsen lays out for a save/Ed Chan, VBshots.com
Pepperdine’s Delaney Knudsen lays out for a save/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Pepperdine gets past Hawai’i: The Waves won at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 to improve to 13-1. The Rainbow Wahine dropped to 15-3 as its four-match winning streak ended.

“Every match-up was different today, which is what makes this sport so different and interesting,” Pepperdine coach Nina Matthies said. “We need to learn to push through difficult matches. I’m very optimistic for the rest of the year. I think we’re young, and we’re still growing.

“We can always work on finishing out matches, starting and finishing strong, we work on serving and passing every day in practice. We’re young, we have to play matches. We have to play tough matches in order to learn to compete under that kind of pressure.”

Accordingly, there was some tremendous competition and close matches on Zuma Beach.

At the No. 1 pairs, Mikayla Tucker and Morgan Martin of Hawai’i defeated Delaney Knudsen and Madalyn Roh  26-24, 12-21, 15-11.

At No. 2, in a battle involving two tremendous indoor players in former Stanford All-American Brittany Howard and Hawai’i All-American Nikki Taylor, Pepperdine’s Howard and Corinne Quiggle got past Taylor and Ka’iwi Schucht 14-21, 21-14, 15-9.

The No. 3 match saw Skylar Caputo and Heidi Dyer of Pepperdine beat Emily Maglio and Laurel Weaver 21-15, 21-16.

And at No. 4, speaking of former big-time indoor players, Pepperdine’s Anika Wilson and Deahna Kraft overpowered Hawai’i’s Ari Homayun and Carly Kan 21-11, 21-19. Kan, the former All-American at Missouri, transferred to Hawai’i to finish school and play beach.

“Well, I remember growing up in Hawai’i, I enjoyed playing (beach) a lot, and it was always super fun, and I figured that after my fourth year of indoor, ‘You know what? I think I’ll play sand, and I made that change, and I graduated a little early so I could get another season of sand, and it all kind of worked out for me,” Kan said.

Kan said her long-range plans are up in the air.

“I’m just kind of figuring everything out. After my last season of indoor I kind of got a little burned out, just from playing since I was 6 years old and just kept at it. Now I’m using volleyball, but in a different way, I think it’s a nice change of pace for me. We’ll see where it goes from here.

“I still have one more season of beach for next year, so I’m really excited about that.

Who knows,” she added with a laugh, “maybe I’ll go in the beach direction. Whatever I feel like doing at the moment”.

Also, at No. 5, with a second-set score that is remarkable, Hannah Zalopany and Iosia Norene of Hawai’i beat Kaity Bailey and Gigi Hernandez 21-19, 28-30, 15-11.

“We can travel, and compete with one of the best programs in the country,” Hawai’i coach Jeff Hall said. “We have some things to work on, but I like how we battled. I’m real proud of the effort. The girls competed to win. That’s what I’m talking about, taking care of our own point.”

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