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Bruin Bites: Gymnastics Bounces Back, Softball Still Perfect, Disappointing Tourneys for Tennis Teams

It's Monday morning, and while we're keeping a close eye on the speculation that Steve Alford could be lured back to his own alma mater with Tom Crean in full free-fall, we'll take a few moments to cover the various bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse, focusing in on various results from our non-revenue sports teams.

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While most of our attention is focused squarely on the growing likelihood that Indiana's Tom Crean could find himself unemployed, with our own Steve Alford one of the top candidates to take over in Bloomington, it's time to take a few minutes to recap the various bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse, focusing in on the results of our various non-revenue squads in action:

--- Beginning with a hoops coach that we know will still be in Westwood next season, Cori Close's unranked women's hoops team is on an extended road trip to Oregon, beginning with a run at the woeful Beavers in Corvallis on Friday night. The Lady Beavers, which were in the middle of a nine-game losing streak finally found a team they could beat, dropping our Lady Bruins, 70-54. Atonye Nyingifa led all scorers with 22 points (to go with 7 rebounds and 3 steals), but it was too little from the Bruins' star as the Lady Beavers were too strong for UCLA. With the loss, the Bruins stand at 11-14 for the year and will be in action this afternoon in Eugene, taking on the Ducks, before returning to Westwood for next weekend's games against the Bay Area schools.

--- Turning to the #9-ranked women's gymnastics squad, the Bruins went north to Seattle and took on Washington on Sunday, dropping the #23-ranked Husky ladies 196.675-195.650. The scores make it appear closer than it really was (if that's possible), with the Bruins just dominating Washington, grabbing the top two spots in each event and the top four spots in the floor exercise, with UCLA's Sydney Sawa leading the way with top scores on the balance beam (9.925), floor exercise (9.900), and the all-around high score (39.450). With the win, the Bruins are now 4-2 on the year and will return home to Westwood to take on the Stanford Cardinal this upcoming Saturday.

--- It might be a long holiday weekend for many of us, but not for our #12-ranked softball team, who hosted the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament in Westwood this weekend. Beginning on Friday, the Lady Bruins started the tourney off against UC Davis and made short work of the Lady Aggies, 6-0. Ally Carda (7.0 IP, 1 H, 11 K) was outstanding in notching her third win of the year, coming up just one hit short of a perfect game, while her catcher, Stephany LaRosa provided all the offense (3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI) in a dominating win. In the second game of the day, the Bruins had to put in more work, scratching out a narrow 3-2 win over Robert Morris in extra innings. Paige McDuffee (8.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 9 K) went the full eight to earn her second victory of the year, while Jessica Hall (1-4, 1 RBI) got the game-winning run home in the bottom of the eighth to keep the Bruins undefeated. On Saturday, the Bruins opened up the day with a solid victory over Western Kentucky, 5-0. Carda (7.0 IP, 3 H, 6 K), threw another shutout gem to earn her fourth victory of the year, while also providing some offense (2-3, 2 R, 2 RBI) in a complete victory for the junior. In the second Saturday game, the Bruins would take on Robert Morris once again, and this time left nothing to chance, spanking the Colonials 9-0 in a mercy-rule shortened game. Hall (5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 10 K) went the distance to get her third win of the year, while also providing some serious offense (2-3, 2 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI) in the beat-down victory. On Sunday, the Bruins started wrapping up their tourney with another showdown with their UC brethren from the north, this time dropping UC Davis, 5-1. McDuffee (3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 K) got the start for UCLA but gave way to Jessica Hall (3.0 IP, 1 H, 6 K) who notched her fourth win of the year despite surrendering the only (unearned) run to the Aggies on the day. Carda (1.0 IP, 2 K) came in to close out the Bruin victory that she led with her bat (2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI). Fortunately for Carda, the Aggies would be the perfect warm-up for the final tournament game, a close 2-0 victory over Loyola Marymount. Delaney Spaulding (1-2, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI) would give the Bruins all the offense they'd need as Carda (7.0 IP, 2 H, 10 K) did the rest in smoking the Lady Lions from the hill. With the perfect 6-0 tournament weekend, the Lady Bruins now stand at 11-0 on the year and will head out to Palm Springs this upcoming weekend for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic tourney, where they'll begin their weekend against #7-ranked and defending national champions Oklahoma.

--- Flipping to the #3-ranked women's water polo team, the Lady Bruins made their return to the pool this past Thursday, where they scrapped together a narrow 6-5 come-from-behind victory in Irvine over the Anteaters. Emily Donohoe and Mackenzie Barr led the Bruins with a brace in front of goal each, with Barr's second being the game-winner with just 1:36 on the clock. With the win, the Bruins stand at 12-1 overall and will return to Irvine this weekend for the UC Irvine Invitational tourney.

--- Turning to the #2-ranked men's volleyball team, the Bruins' week did not start out well, getting upset by #6-ranked Long Beach State at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday, 1-3 (16-25, 20-25, 25-22, 23-25). Gonzalo Quiroga put up a double-double (20 kills, 10 digs) while Robart Page (18 kills, 8 digs) put up a solid night, but it was too little for UCLA as they dropped their third game of the year. Fortunately, the Bruins bounced right back on Friday night against #13-ranked Cal State Northridge, sweeping the Matadors, 3-0 (25-15, 25-18, 34-32). Page crushed CSUN with 21 kills to lead the match, while Hagen Smith continued his strong run of form, putting up 35 assists. With the split week, the Bruins are now 11-3 overall and 8-2 in conference play. Next up is a road trip to Stockton (bring your bullet-proof vests) on Sunday to take on the Pacific Tigers (side note: when did the San Joaquin River and the Port of Stockton start counting as the Pacific?) before heading west to Palo Alto to take on Stanford on Monday.

--- As for the #2-ranked men's tennis team, the Bruins went down to Houston for the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships this past weekend, beginning with a clean 4-0 shutout of #15-ranked Pepperdine on Friday. The Bruins opened with the doubles point, before Marcos Giron, Greg Brymer, and Dennis Mkrtchian ran off three consecutive singles victories to clinch the win for UCLA. On Saturday, the Bruins took on #7-ranked Oklahoma and after falling behind early, stormed back to win 4-2 to set up a trip to the tourney semi-finals. Oklahoma came out strong, grabbing the doubles point to take an early advantage, but UCLA came on strong in singles, with Clay Thompson, Mackenzie McDonald, Joseph Di Giulio, and Mkrtchian picking up the four singles points needed to survive and advance. On Sunday, the Bruins took on a familar foe in #3-ranked Southern Cal in the tourney semi-final, and unfortunately for UCLA, that's where their tourney ended, falling 3-4 in a thrilling semi-final match. Southern Cal opened up by grabbing the doubles point, followed by two straight singles wins to take a commanding 3-0 advantage. UCLA came roaring back with singles wins by Di Giulio, Brymer, and Thompson to notch it up at 3-3, with #5-ranked Marcos Giron taking on #16-ranked Yannick Hanfmann, with the Trojan pulling the upset in a close 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win. The loss is UCLA's first on the year, as they now stand at 7-1 overall, and will next be in action next Saturday against Pepperdine in Westwood.

--- Finally, for their female counterparts, the #5-ranked women's tennis team took on #10-ranked Duke in the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championship in Charlottesville last Monday, but the Bruins couldn't repeat the 4-0 win over Duke in the 2012 tourney title game, this time falling to Duke in a close 3-4 loss for UCLA. The Lady Bruins started out strong, winning the doubles point to take the early advantage, followed by singles wins by Kaitlin Ray and Catherine Harrison to give UCLA a strong 3-0 advantage. But the Bruins struggled down the stretch, with Kyle McPhillips, Chanelle Van Nguyen, and Robin Anderson all being upset by their lower-ranked Duke opponents to notch it at 3-3, before Jennifer Brady fell in a 3-6, 7-6 (3), (10-3) loss to give the Blue Devils the tournament title. Like the men, the tourney loss marks UCLA's first loss on the year, falling to 8-1 overall. The Lady Bruins will be back in action this Wednesday against Pepperdine in Westwood.

Alright folks, those are your Bruin Bites for the middle of this Monday holiday. Fire away in the comment section with your thoughts, additions, or other bits of UCLA-related news.