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Why UCLA is Dominating NCAA Men’s Volleyball

Ben Degani

UCLA’s Starting Lineup for the Spring 2024 season.

Men’s volleyball has been the fastest-growing NCAA sport in recent years, and with this newfound popularity, the establishment of a sports collegiate powerhouse must be made. As the title suggests, that team is UCLA. However, when you go to the 2024 season ranking, UCLA is ranked fourth nationwide. So how can this be? Well, I am here to tell you that these rankings don’t tell the full story, and here's why:

As it stands, the Bruins have a record of 9-3 with many games left in their season, but let's examine the three losses as they are the key to understanding why they are so dominant (as contradictory as it sounds). The first was a reverse sweep to Ohio State, another top-ten school in the country. The final score was 2-3, and UCLA “choked” after winning the first two sets, then losing three straight sets and subsequently the match. But what went wrong here? The Bruins’ star-studded roster took the court for the first two sets: freshman of the year Andrew Rowan at setter, All-Americans Alex Knight (C) and Ethan Champlin (C) at outside, the unstoppable canon Ido David at the right side, National MVP Merrick McHenry and Guy Genis at the middles, and several different liberos. This is where the first problem occurs. The libero is the defensive cornerstone of any volleyball team, and without a top-tier libero, the team falls apart from a lack of foundation. Thus, UCLA Coach John Speraw tries to fill in the gaps by putting Champlin and Knight at Libero and subbing in Cooper Robinson and Zach Rama — young phenoms — to play the most difficult roles on the court. Being an outside hitter requires not only skill but leadership and experience, which is what makes the senior captains exceptional. Neither Robinson nor Rama is short of skill, but a lack of experience ends up contributing to the second major problem with this roster. 

However, the impressiveness of the feats the Bruins attempt to overcome speaks volumes to the team's dominance. They possess so much talent that the team throws out these joke lineups consisting of 40 percent bench players and still pulls out 3-0 and 3-1 victories. What happens when UCLA brings out their starting six for an entire game? They made quick work of first rank Long Beach State University 3-1. This really goes to show how versatile the Bruins are—they can throw their stars into various positions, and it won’t matter because in come two more just as skilled players to take their place


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