We will start our walk with the women’s tennis team serving for a championship. dproduct has all the details on our #7 ranked ladies going up against California Bears (#8) for title number 102.
Meanwhile, the men’s team came up just short, falling against the Longhorns in the Final-4. The Daily Bruin has the wrap on a spectacular season that ‘exceeded all expectations’:
The No. 3 UCLA men’s tennis team was finally grounded after a season that exceeded all expectations.
The Bruins (25-2) were ousted by seventh-seeded Texas in the semifinals on Monday evening by a 4-2 score.
"We’ve had a great season," UCLA coach Billy Martin said. "I can’t say I thought we played badly. We fought really hard today and lost to a really good team."
A controversial call on doubles court No. 2 decided the opening point of the match. UCLA’s Holden Seguso hit a crosscourt shot that appeared to land several inches within the sideline.
Read rest of the story here. Once again congrats to our men’s team. We have no doubt they will come right back next season and contend for the top prize again. So no shame there.
Moving on over to the football front, Neuheisel made a pretty interesting personnel move yesterday by bringing in Darren Witcher as Director of Football Operations:
Witcher, 47, a longtime high school assistant football coach in the state of Washington, has worked in the Seattle area for over 18 years as a project manager for aerospace giant Boeing. A former student-athlete at the University of Washington, Witcher has kept his love of football alive the last 17 years while serving as an assistant coach at Seattle area high schools (Franklin, Garfield and Rainier Beach).
Witcher coached the last nine years at Rainier Beach High School and has also headed up the school's National Football Foundation-sponsored "Play It Smart" program. "Play It Smart" seeks to transform the student-athlete's passion for their sport and dedication to their team into a force for greater good in their lives through a combination of academic assistance, mentoring and community service. In 2003 and 2004, one of the other coaches on the Rainier Beach staff was a volunteer coach named Rick Neuheisel.
Witcher played defensive back at the University of Washington for coach Don James during the 1979-82 seasons. The Huskies posted an overall record of 39-9 and appeared in four straight bowls in that stretch, including the 1981 and 1982 Rose Bowl games. His career ended during his senior season due to a knee injury.
If you can’t remember - Rainier Beach High School – was the same school where CRN worked as an unpaid volunteer assistant coach following the march madness pool related BS that ended his tenure as the Washington head coach. Kurt Streeter back in January wrote a pretty moving article on Neuheisel’s experiences at Rainier. This move of bringing in Witcher in not only closes that emotional loop, but more importantly it also sends the signal that Neuheisel plans to recruit very aggressively in Washington. So it will be interesting to see what kind of immediate or long term dividends this move pays off on the recruiting trail.
Speaking of recruiting Gary Parrish from Sportsline.com reaffirmed what we already knew: Coach Howland has the number 1 class in America coming in next season (HT BruinInDenver). However, what’s interesting is that Parrish is already counting Morgan as a Bruin. He may know something we don’t know yet officially. But as we have said all along we will wait for the official word before doing any kind of celebrating.
Meanwhile as Morgan-UCLA talks continue to bubble, Stepheson-UCLA discussion is just hearing up. Dohn has this on the connections between Stepheson and UCLA coach Scott Garson:
UCLA assistant coach Scott Garson is a Harvard-Westlake product, and like Stepheson, played for Harvard-Westlake coach Greg Hilliard.
Also from Dohn apparently Stepheson will be on UCLA campus this week:
UCLA has been in contact with North Carolina transfer Alex Stepheson and his family, and I am told he will be on campus this week to meet with the coaching staff and get a tour. However, I am also told it could be a few weeks before a decision is made.
Again we will see how it all plays out. As always the motto here is trust in Howland. BTW before moving on from Ben Ball couple of more quick notes: Stanback hasn’t decided to where to transfer yet and Malcolm Thomas (a forward from Pepperdine whose name came up on our radar few weeks earlier) has decided to transfer to San Diego State. We wish both of those kids luck.
Lastly, we will end the walk with a trip to the diamonds. The baseball team is heading out to Fullerton for a huge non conference game today:
Looking to build on the success from its sweep of the Washington State Cougars over the weekend, UCLA will go on the road and take on No. 8 Cal State Fullerton today in the Bruins’ final nonconference game of the season.
After the sweep, the Bruins (29-23, 11-10 Pac-10) can improve their chances of making the playoffs tremendously with a win over the nationally ranked Titans (35-17, 15-6 Big West). With only one weekend series left against Pac-10 rival California, UCLA will have to capitalize on this opportunity to gain ground in the RPI in hopes of making the postseason tournament. However, Cal State Fullerton will likely provide a difficult challenge.
"Fullerton’s a good team, and they’ve gotten the best of us the last four times we’ve played them," senior catcher Brent Dean said. "I think we’re ready. I think if we just go out there and stick with our plan and have our guys come out and play aggressive like they have been, I think we’ll put up a better game than last time."
UCLA lost to Fullerton earlier in the season on March 4, 7-1. Despite this loss, the Bruins will look to turn things around this time, as UCLA’s Matt Grace (0-0, 3.24 ERA) will take the mound against Kevin Rath (1-0, 6.14 ERA).
The Bruins will attempt to build off the momentum from their wins over Washington State. The players have begun to gel and play better together as of late, and Dean and fellow senior Alden Carrithers will look to continue their strong play. Carrithers in particular has played well this season, batting .378 this season with a .541 slugging percentage.
A win against the Titans will be absolutely huge for our post-season prospects. As jlegs noted citing Baseball America Bruins will probably get into the playoffs if they finish the season 2-2. And a win against a team like the Titans will not only improve their stock, but it will give them enormous confidence heading into the crucial road trip to Berkeley this weekend. Let’s hope they can pull off a win against a Titans today. It’s about time we win one against those guys.