We're closing in on football's National Signing Day quickly now (February 5) and our defending national champion baseball team is returning in just a few short weeks (February 14), but a lot of UCLA's contenders for Westwood's 111th national championship squad returned to action this week, with both the men's tennis team (ranked #2) and the women's tennis team (ranked #5) returning to action with some solid wins, which should help make it an interesting and exciting spring as UCLA might capture multiple national titles if they can hold their form throughout the year. With that, let's take a look at the various bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse:
- Beginning with the unranked women's hoops team, the Lady Bruins ended the last long holiday weekend with a close 66-63 win over Oregon State last Monday. Led by Nirra Fields' team-high 18 points (to go with 6 rebounds) and Atonye Nyingifa's double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds), the Bruins held on down the stretch to eek out the close win at Pauley to put themselves over .500 for the first time this season. But the ladies wouldn't stay above .500 for long, getting swept in the Bay Area, beginning with a 72-55 loss to #4-ranked Stanford in Palo Alto on Friday night. Nyingifa once again led UCLA (18 points, 8 rebounds), but it was too little from too few players as the Cardinal romped to a strong win to remain undefeated in conference play. Sunday in Berkeley was no better, as the Lady Bruins fell below .500, losing to the #16-ranked Golden Bears in Berkeley. Fields led the Bruins with a huge double-double (26 points, 10 rebounds), but she got little help as the Bears effectively shut down Nyingifa (held to 8 points, 3 rebounds). With the weekend sweep, UCLA now stands at 10-11 overall and 4-5 in Pac-12 play, with the Lady Bruins back in action this weekend at Pauley against the Washington schools.
- Turning to the #8-ranked gymnastics team, the Lady Bruins went to Salt Lake City to take on #4-ranked Utah on Saturday, but sadly the Bruins couldn't come up with the same form that saw them drop Oregon State and come within .025 of the defending champions. The final score was 197.125-195.875 for the Utes, with the Bruins only taking top spot in one of the four events (Danusia Francis on the balance beam with a 9.950), giving Utah an easy victory. With the loss, the Bruins are now 1-2 on the year and will next be in action this upcoming Friday in Berkeley against the Bears.
- Heading to the court, the #2-ranked men's tennis team opened their 2014 season with a dominating sweep over UC Irvine on Wednesday, 7-0. The Bruins took the opening pair of doubles matches to pick up the doubles point, and followed it with six straight singles match wins, with every Bruin (except Karue Sell) winning in straight sets, to walk away with an easy opening win. The Bruins got their weekend program off to the right foot, dropping visiting Wisconsin easily, 5-0, on Saturday. The Bruins once again picked up the doubles point and followed it by a dominating singles performance, with wins from Clay Thompson (6-1, 6-4), Mackenzie McDonald (6-2, 6-5 (4)), Gage Brymer (6-4, 6-0), and Joseph Di Giulio (6-4, 6-2). They ended the weekend strong as well, dismantling Texas Tech, 4-0. The Bruins' doubles pairings remained perfect on the year, picking up another doubles point, with UCLA grabbing three straight singles points (Marcos Giron, McDonald, and Dennis Mkrtchian) to take the match-up against the Red Raiders. With the opening matches in the books, UCLA opens the year at 3-0, and will next take on Florida this Saturday.
- As for their female counterparts, the #5-ranked women's tennis team opened their season in similar fashion, crushing UC Santa Barbara 7-0 this past Tuesday to open the year the right way. The Lady Bruins picked up the first two doubles matches to take the doubles point, followed by a dominating six singles' wins, led by Chanelle Van Nguyen (6-0, 6-1), with Jennifer Brady (6-1, 6-2), Kyle McPhillips (6-1, 6-0), Catherine Harrison (6-0, 6-1), Kaitlin Ray (6-1, 6-1), and Courtney Dolehide (6-1, 6-4) all dropping their Gaucho opposition. Like the men, the Lady Bruins followed their dominating opener with a clean sweep in first match of their weekend program, dropping the San Diego Toreros 4-0 on Friday. Once again, UCLA opened the series with a pair of doubles wins to grab the doubles point, before #1-nationally-ranked singles player Robin Anderson (6-0, 6-0) returning to lead the Bruins to the easy win, with McPhillips (6-0, 6-2), and Harrison (6-1, 6-0) bringing the Bruins a second win. Finally, on Saturday, the Bruins took on visiting TCU, winning handily 4-1, with the Bruins again taking a doubles point to open the match. While it wasn't a perfect sweep, the Bruins got the necessary three singles' points to pick up another win, with Brady, McPhillips, and Harrison picking up the wins. The Lady Bruins are now at 3-0 and will next be in action against LMU on Wednesday.
- Flipping over to John Speraw's #3-ranked men's volleyball team, the Bruins took on #8-ranked UC Santa Barbara at Pauley last Tuesday and did not disappoint, picking up three straight sets to win 3-0 (25-12, 25-22, 29-27). Once again Robart Page (15 kills) and Gonzalo Quiroga (11 kills) led the Bruins in kills, helping UCLA ease to an easy win over top-10 competition to pick up a nice resume-building win as UCLA begins the hunt for Westwood's 111th national championship. With the win, UCLA now stands at 6-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play, and will next take on the defending national champs, the UC Irvine Anteaters, at Pauley at 7 p.m. PST tonight.
Alright folks, those are your Bruin Bites to kick off this Monday morning as we get the work week started. Fire away in the comment section with your thoughts, additions, or other bits of UCLA-related news.