It's a Monday morning in mid-January which means we're another week closer to National Signing Day for our football team (February 5) where we'll finally get a more definite idea of which guys will be joining Coach Mora's #BruinRevolution in Westwood and a probable run to the Pac-12 title and (hopefully) an appearance in the first college football playoff in Division I-A.
It also means we're now in the second week of classes for the Winter Quarter and our non-revenue sports are back in full swing with campus back to life after the winter holiday, which means we have a full slate of non-revenue results to recap to begin your work week. So with that said, here are the bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse:
- Beginning with our national-contending #7-ranked men's volleyball team, the Bruins went to Honolulu this past weekend for the Outrigger Hotels Invitational, beginning with a five-set victory over #11-ranked Penn State, 3-2 (25-15, 22-25, 23-25, 25-21, 16-14). Led by senior Robart Page's career-high 23 kills (plus 11 digs and 5 blocks) and the reliable Gonzalo Quiroga's 15 kill effort, the Bruins got to .500 on the year with the win. The next day, the Bruins were back at it, this time dropping #12-ranked Ohio State in a three set sweep, 3-0 (25-14, 25-23, 25-21). Once again, UCLA got double-digit efforts from Page (12 kills) and Quiroga (10 kills, 7 digs) to lead them to a second win in as many days. Both wins led to a Saturday finale against #14-ranked host-school Hawaii for the tourney title, with the Bruins returning to Westwood with the tourney trophy after dropping the Rainbow Warriors 3-1 (25-19, 14-25, 25-19, 25-16). And in a third consecutive day, it was Page (16 kills, 8 digs) and Quiroga (10 kills, 7 digs) leading the way, with redshirt sophomore Trent Kersten joining in the fun with 10 kills of his own. With the weekend clean sweep, the Bruins now stand at 3-1 on the year and will open Pac-12 play this Friday against the Cardinal of Stanford in Westwood.
- Turning to the #4-ranked gymnastics squad, the Lady Bruins got their season started by taking on defending national champ and #1-ranked Florida in Pauley Pavilion. And, unfortunately, our Bruins came up agonizing short, falling to the Gators by 0.025 points, or 1/40th of a point, losing 196.650 to 196.625. Despite Samantha Peszek (9.925 on balance beam) and Olivia Courtney (9.9 on uneven bars, 9.975 on the vault) taking top spot in three out of five events, the Bruins were still short by the smallest possible margin. With the loss, the Lady Bruins start the season off 0-1 and will next take on Oregon State at Pauley this upcoming Sunday.
- Flipping over to another set of Lady Bruins, the unranked women's basketball team went down to the desert this weekend, beginning with a road game against the Arizona Lady Mildcats in Tucson, pulling out a nice 67-61 win at the McKale Center. Led by Thea Lemberger's game-high 19 points and Antonye Nyingifa's double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds), four different Bruins got into double digits (the aforementioned Lemberger and Nyingifa, as well as Nirra Fields and Luiana Livulo, both with 11 points). But unfortunately, the road trip would end on a sour note, as the Bruins barely lost to #23-ranked Arizona State in Tempe on Sunday, falling 59-57. Nyingifa would lead the Bruins again with another double-double game (19 points, 12 rebounds), with Fields posting a game-high 20 points, but it was too-little as the much-deeper Sun Devils were able to squeak by with a narrow win. With the weekend split, the Lady Bruins are now 8-9 overall and 2-3 in Pac-12 play; they'll next be in action against the Oregon schools at Pauley this upcoming weekend.
- And just because I can't ever do one of these without mentioned football, ESPN is openly floating the idea of Cowboys owner
Al Davis Jr.Jerry Jones hiring Troy Aikman as the GM, using Elway's tenure as Denver's GM as an example of it working out. While even the WWL acknowledges it's unlikely Jerry will give up the GM reins, it'd be nice for Aikman to get some front-office and personnel experience: it'd come in handy if we wanted to lure him to Westwood to replace Chianti Dan. Wouldn't it be novel to hire a former student-athlete who wasn't a scrub on the field and who well, has football experience at any level?
- Finally, to close on football, in case you missed it, the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to allow former UCLA playmaker and East Bay native Maurice Jones-Drew to test the free agent market this off-season. With many teams lacking a true playmaker in the backfield, MJD will attract some good interest in the market, including teams with underwhelming #1 guys, such as the Chargers, the Lions, the Bengals, although in an ideal world, he'd return to his native San Francisco Bay Area and spell Frank Gore and help bring the Niners their seventh Super Bowl ring (because well, I'm assuming they're going to finally break the Seattle curse and win it all this year).
Alright folks, those are your Bruin Bites to kick off this Monday morning. Fire away in the comment section with your thoughts, additions, or other bits of UCLA-related news.