It's a weird week: for the first time in two years, our Bruins won't be representing the Pac-12 South in the Pac-12 title game this weekend. With no football on tap until we find out where we'll be playing our bowl game, we instead turn our attention to how the other various non-revenue sports are faring for the Blue and Gold. Sadly, it's been a bad week-and-a-half since we last rounded up the non-revenue sports, with pretty much every squad falling short, except for one: our headstrong, never-willing-to-quit #1-ranked women's soccer team, who despite being shafted by the NCAA tourney selection committee, has busted into the Final Four. With that, here's the details on the various bits and pieces of news from the non-revenue sports related UCLA-iverse:
- Let's begin with the unranked women's volleyball team, which has been in a total free-fall all season long, ended their season in typical fashion: with a pair of losses, including one to Southern Cal, to end their season. Beginning last Wednesday, the Lady Bruins ended their disappointing season with a whimper during Beat Southern Cal Week, getting swept by the #7-ranked Ladies of Troy at Pauley Pavilion, 0-3 (22-25, 11-25, 13-25). Karsta Lowe was the only Bruin to notch double-digits in kills (11), while Karly Drolson (12 digs) and Megan Moenoa (30 assists, 6 digs) were the only other highlights of note in an otherwise dour loss to our hated rivals. With one final game on Friday, the Bruins put up more of a fight against Utah, but not much, falling to the Utes 1-3 (25-19, 16-25, 22-25, 23-25). Lowe led the Bruins in kills again (19) but it was Kelly Reeves who had the best night for UCLA with a double-double (16 kills, 14 digs) but it was not enough to get UCLA a season-ending win. With the final games in the books, the Lady Bruins finish the year at 15-15 overall and 6-14 in conference play. Disappointing would be an understatement.
- Speaking of disappointment, the #3-ranked men's water polo team's season came to an earlier-than-hoped end, with the Bruins eliminated from NCAA tournament consideration following their fourth-place finish in the MPSF conference tournament. The tourney began well for the Bruins, with UCLA dropping UC Santa Barbara in the quarterfinal round on Friday, 11-8. But, the next day, the Bruins season ran into a wall against #2-ranked Stanford, with the Cardinal knocking the Bruins out 11-10. Fueled by a huge opening quarter, the Cardinal took a 6-1 advantage early and despite a late rally, the Bruins came up just short. Sunday marked do-or-die, with the Bruins taking on #1-ranked Pacific, with an NCAA tournament at-large bid at stake, but in the most important game of the year, the Bruins fell painfully short, losing to the Pacific Tigers 10-9 to end their season. With the losses, the Bruins finish the year at 28-4 overall and 7-1 in conference play, but miss out on the NCAA tournament, with Pacific taking the #2-seed and facing the winner of the Stanford-Whittier match.
- The men's water polo team wasn't the only team in tournament action, as our women's basketball team was in action in the Gulf Coast Showcase tournament this past weekend. And unfortunately, like their male colleagues in the pool, the tournament did not go so well for Cori Close or her squad. In the opening round last Friday, UCLA got trounced by James Madison 77-67, despite a near double-double effort from Nirra Fields (21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists). The next day, in the consolation bracket,the Lady Bruins took on Grand Canyon University and barely escaped with a close 62-60 win, thanks to a tough shot by Nirra Fields with two seconds on the clock to give UCLA the last lead. The win advanced them to the fifth place game against North Carolina State and it wasn't even close as the Wolfpack ran the Bruins out of the arena, stomping Close's thin squad 67-49. North Carolina State probably could have made it even more of a laugher, having taken a 40-20 lead into the break at half, but let up in the second half. Thea Lemberger led all scorers with 17 points, but the Bruins reliance on the big three of Lemberger (17 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists), Atonye Nyingifa (15 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists), and Fields (13 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist) cost them, wih no other UCLA player getting more than 2 points. With the poor showing, the Bruins now stand at 3-4 overall on the year. The ladies will next be in action on Saturday in South Bend, when they take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
- Speaking of disappointing, the top-seeded men's soccer team went into the NCAA tournament third round fresh off a dominating 4-0 over Elon, but the Bruins hit a brick wall, and saw their season end, against Connecticut, losing in penalty kicks to the Huskies from Storrs, 3-3 (4-5 PKs). The Bruins took command early, taking a 2-0 lead in the opening 13 minutes, with goals from Felix Vobejda (12') and Leo Stolz (13'). But UConn wasn't willing to fade away, scoring two on both sides of the half-time break through Cyle Larin (35') and Kwame Awuah (58'). Stolz (61') responded minutes later to put our Bruins back in the lead, but it would take less than 10 minutes for Larin (70') to equalize, notching the game at 3-3. Two scoreless overtimes later and our Bruins found themselves in the roll-of-the-dice known as penalty kicks. You know, that thing that has confounded Englishmen in every major tournament for the past, well, forever. And like the England national team, our Bruins fell short at the most critical juncture with Stolz putting his PK over the net, allowing the Huskies to draw even before Victor Munoz's blocked shot would prove to be the critical miss. Disappointing end to an up-and-down season marked by inconsistency, despite an incredible spread of talent.
- Fortunately, at least one Bruin squad managed to survive and advance, with the #1-ranked, yet #2-seeded, women's soccer team coming up huge in the NCAA quarterfinal against North Carolina, grabbing a massive 1-0 win in double overtime in Chapel Hill. While Chianti Dan Guerrero didn't seem too bothered by the fact the NCAA tourney selection committee blatantly shafted the top-ranked Bruins in favor offour ACC squads, the Lady Bruins went to North Carolina on a mission and came away with the huge win. In an evenly fought match (both teams taking 11 shots at goal), it was Taylor Smith that finally broke the deadlock (102') shortly into the second OT to grab the golden goal that sent the Lady Bruins through to the semi-final against Virginia tomorrow night. Tune in to ESPNU at 4:30 p.m. PST for the women's soccer NCAA semi-final match against Virginia and stay tuned to BN for an open thread for those of you tracking and watching the Lady Bruins make a run at Westwood's 110th national title.
Alright folks, those are your non-revenue sports related bits and pieces from around the UCLA-iverse for this Thursday morning. Stay tuned as we get ready to watch our Lady Bruins take on Virginia on the pitch in the NCAA tournament semi-final in their quest to bring home Westwood's 110th national championship banner. Fire away in the comment thread with your additions, opinions, and takeaways as we wait for the return of Jim "UCLA > Washington" Mora's football program.