NCAA Men's Volleyball Countdown: No. 3 UCLA
The No. 3 spot goes to UCLA this year, and here's why:
The Bruins return everyone from last year's lineup and hope to ride a tough non-conference schedule to another national title.
25-7 overall, 17-5 in MPSF (tied second place)
0-1 in NCAA Tournament (lost 3-2 vs. Ohio State)
Final 2016 RPI: 3
Team Hitting Percentage: .313 (#5 in NCAA)
Team Blocks Per Set: 2.51 (#6)
RETURNING STARSMicah Ma'a | 6-foot-3 | Sophomore | Setter/Opposite
5.99 assists/set; 2.12 kills/set; .310 (#33 in NCAA); 0.48 aces/set (#5)
Mitch Stahl | 6-7 | Senior | Middle Blocker
1.86 kills/set; .471; 1.19 blocks/set (#6 in NCAA)
Jake Arnitz | 6-7 | Junior | Outside Hitter
3.31 kills/set (#12 in NCAA); .313 (#30); 0.63 blocks/set
JT Hatch | 6-1 | Junior | Outside Hitter
2.76 kills/set; .252; 0.35 blocks/set; 0.39 aces/set (#13 in NCAA)
Davis Gillett | 5-11 | Sophomore | Libero
2.02 digs/set (#29 in NCAA)
Hagen Smith | 6-1 | Senior | Setter/Opposite
5.88 assists/set; 1.21 kills/set; .216; 0.66 blocks/set
Oliver Martin | 6-10 | Junior | Middle Blocker
1.49 kills/set; .447; 0.92 blocks/set
PROMISING NEWCOMERSJonah Kay | 6-5 | Redshirt Freshman | Middle Blocker Hitter
Daenan Gyimah | 6-8 | Freshman | Middle Blocker
Sam Jones | 5-8 | Freshman | Libero
Sam Kobrine | 6-3 | Freshman | Outside Hitter
Reece Salmons | 6-0 | Freshman | Setter
Photo by ASUCLA Photography.
Non-Conference Matches to Watch
January 7 at Ohio State
March 8 vs. Lewis
Last spring, the Bruins lost in the NCAA semifinals to eventual champion Ohio State. The fifth set score, 18-16, would have been a sad way for any UCLA starters to end their careers. But every single player in that starting lineup is back this year, and coach John Speraw (fifth season) can only hope that loss will help motivate his team to a 2017 championship. The Bruins have a dynamic duo of setter/opposites in sophomore Micah Ma'a and senior Hagen Smith. Both outside hitters are juniors, Jake Arnitz and JT Hatch, and they combined for six kills/set in 206. Hatch and Ma'a were two of the top servers last year, while Arnitz tallied an exceptionally high hitting average (.313) for a pin hitter. Six-foot-seven senior Mitch Stahl and 6-10 junior Oliver Martin are a formidable pair in the middle, averaging a combined two stuff blocks per set. Sophomore Davis Gillett returns at libero, looking to improve on an already impressive 2.02 digs/set. Among the freshmen is setter Reece Salmons, son of 1984 Olympic gold medalist Steve Salmons. UCLA didn't scrimp on its non-conference schedule: The Bruins start the season on the road against Loyola-Chicago, Penn State, and Ohio State, with a March match against Lewis looming large.
The Bruins know that championships often turn on the tiniest of details. Even the smallest of improvements may be enough to bring UCLA its 20th NCAA men's volleyball championship.
FloVolleyball NCAA Men's Volleyball Countdown
8. UC Irvine
4. Long Beach State
2-1. Check back every day to see the remainder of the rankings!