Bruin Bites: Quest for UCLA's #111 NCAA Championship Still Alive

With the weather getting warm, classes starting to get closer to an end in Westwood, it marks the beginning of NCAA tournament season for UCLA and a handful of Bruin squads are looking to capture Westwood's 111th national championship banner.

Depending on who you ask (and where exactly you live), it's late spring or early summer, which means UCLA is (as usual) in the hunt for a NCAA championship as our various non-revenue squads continue to survive and advance in NCAA tournament action.  So, with the Bruins in the middle of some intense NCAA tournament action this past week, let's jump right into your various bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse:

--- Beginning with the #5-seeded women's tennis team, the Lady Bruins will once again return to the NCAA tournament's Final Four.  On Thursday, the Bruins swept #12-seeded Miami aside, 4-0, in the Sweet Sixteen round.  The Bruins opened the match by taking the doubles point (5-8, 8-3, 8-4) before running off three straight singles points through Catherine Harrison (6-2, 6-3), Jennifer Brady (6-4, 6-2), and Chanelle Van Nguyen (6-1, 6-3). After taking Friday off, on Saturday, the Lady Bruins took a huge step forward, dropping #4-seeded Duke, 4-2, avenging February's 4-3 loss to the Blue Devils in the ITA Indoor Champioinship final.  UCLA opened up by (once again) grabbing the doubles point (8-3, 8-5) to take an early advantage, but the Blue Devils would respond by taking the first two singles points to put UCLA down 2-1.  But three straight singles wins by Chanelle Van Nguyen (6-4, 7-5), Robin Anderson (7-6, 6-3), and Catherine Harrison (5-7, 6-1, 6-3) got the Bruins the points to advance to the national semifinal, where they will take on #8-seeded Florida in the NCAA national semifinal this morning at 10 a.m. PST at the University of Georgia.

--- Joining the women's tennis team in the Final Four, albeit it in the male tournament, will be our #6-seeded men's tennis team. On Friday, the men's tennis team made short work of unseeded Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen, winning 4-0.  Like their female counterparts, the men opened the match by taking the doubles point (8-4, 8-7) before running off three straight singles victories through Gage Brymer (6-2, 6-2), Adrien Puget (6-4, 6-2), and Marcos Giron (6-3, 6-3). Like the ladies, the Elite Eight would not be a cakewalk, as the Bruins drew a tough #3-seeded Ohio State squad, but after a hard-fought battle, the Bruins survived and advanced, beating the Buckeyes, 4-2.  After being rained out of outdoor competition, the Bruins and Buckeyes moved inside in Atlanta, seemingly putting UCLA at a disadvantage, which confirmed Coach Martin's worst fears when UCLA dropped the doubles point (8-3, 6-8, 7-8) and Clay Thompson dropped the first singles point (5-7, 6-7), putting the Bruins down 2-0 early.  But UCLA came on strong, picking up four singles wins in a row through Puget (6-2, 7-6), Karue Sell (6-4, 6-4), Mackenzie McDonald (6-3, 3-6, 6-3), and Brymer (4-6, 6-2, 6-4).  Next up will be #2-seeded Oklahoma in the NCAA national semifinal, which will get underway for UCLA at 2 p.m. PST today.

--- Jumping over to the diamond, the #3-seeded softball team got NCAA Regional action underway at Easton Stadium on Friday.  And boy, they didn't disappoint, putting a beat down on Southern Utah in the opening NCAA regional game, winning 8-0 in a mercy-rule shortened six-inning affair.  Ally Carda (3.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 K, 1 H, 2 BB) got the start and made way for Jessica Hall (3.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 K, 0 H, 1 BB) who picked up the win in relief in a dominating pitching performance by both hurlers.  At the plate, the Bruins jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, with Alyssa Tiumalu (1-1, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 HR) and Gabrielle Maurice (2-3, 2 R, 1 RBI) having strong offensive showings. On Saturday, the Lady Bruins kept their dominating form on point, beating down the Notre Dame Fighting Irish down in a 7-0 victory for UCLA.  Led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Ally Carda (5.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 K, 0 BB, 3 H) and Jessica Hall (2.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 K, 1 BB, 0 H) shutting Notre Dame down at the plate, the Bruins took control early and never let up.  On the offensive side, the big bats came from LF Gabrielle Maurice (1-2, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 HR) and Hall (1-2, 1 R, 4 RBI, 1 HR) who launched a huge grand slam in the bottom of the third.  The next day, the Bruins were given two chances to drop Notre Dame one more time but they only needed one - beating the Fighting Irish in a close 1-0 win to clinch the regional and advance to the NCAA Super Regional next weekend at Easton Stadium against #14-seeded Kentucky. Carda (4.1 IP, 0 ER, 4 K, 2 BB, 2 H) was excellent in the circle to pick up the win, while Paige McDuffee (2.2 IP, 0 ER, 1 K, 2 BB, 2 H) kept the door closed to pick up a huge play-off save, while Hall's (1-2, 1 RBI) single to left in the top of the fourth, brought in the only run needed to get the Lady Bruins to the Super Regional.

Alright folks, those are your Bruin Bites tracking NCAA tournament action as our Bruins are in the hunt for Westwood's 111th NCAA national championship banner. Fire away in the comment section with your thoughts, additions, or other bits of news from around the UCLA-iverse.

GO BRUINS

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