A Star is Born: Burgi sparks UCLA past Pepperine in NCAA opening round

Photo by Virginia Pham

The legend of Sam Burgi is born.

Burgi had appeared in two matches the entire season and started the night on his typical spot on the UCLA bench. By the time the NCAA Tournament opening round ended, the entire UCLA student section had been chanting his name.

Burgi delivered the game-winning kill in a pivotal third-game overtime and finished with six kills on a .455 attack percentage as UCLA defeated Pepperdine 25-23, 22-25, 26-24, 25-19 on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

The offensive performance in this postseason match was one fewer kill than Burgi had the entire regular season. In addition, Burgi defensively was served 16 times and did not commit a reception error and added a solo block in the fourth game.

Burgi was one of three Bruins who had more than five kills and hit more than .400. The MPSF regular season champions UCLA out-hit Pepperdine .437 to .283 en route securing a spot in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.


Opposite Kevin Kobrine led all players with 16 kills on a .519 attack percentage. Setter Miles Partain along with guiding the offense added five kills and zero errors while hitting .625 against Pepperdine.

Pepperdine middle attacker Austin Wilmot in the loss had a team-high two aces and 12 kills on a .556 attack percentage. Outside attacker Spencer Wickens also had 11 kills and hit .529.

UCLA, though, limited Pepperdine’s opposites Jaylen Jasper and Jacob Steele to a combined .027 attack percentage and 13 kills.

UCLA committing a combined two attack errors in the two final game and had a match-best .636 attack percentage in the fourth game to close out the match.

The Bruins had a .593 attack percentage in a third-game win that featured 17 ties. Pepperdine fought off a game-point to force overtime, but then responded with back-to-back kills to win the game.

UCLA trailed by three points early in the second game and took a 15-14 lead on a Grant Sloane dig off the shoulder that landed on Pepperdine’s side of the court for a kill. The Bruins also erased another three-point lead to tie the game before commiting three consecutive errors en route to the Waves winning the game.

Pepperdine rallied from any six-point deficit to tie the opening game at 23-23 with an ace from setter Bryce Dvorak.UCLA, though, responded as it blocked a Jasper kill attempt to set up game-point, and then on the next play Pepperdine was called in the net to end the game.

This was the seventh all-time NCAA Tournament meeting between UCLA and Pepperdine. It also was the first time the two teams have met in the NCAA Tournament since the Waves beat the Bruins in the 2005 finals

UCLA will advance to play the No. 1 seed Long Beach State in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday.

The two teams split their non-conference home-and-home series in the regular season with both teams winning at home.

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