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Bruin Bites: Women's H2O Polo Comes Up Short, Softball's Regional Draw, Tennis Teams Rolling in NCAA Action

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.

It's that time of the year again: football and basketball have gone away for their summer hibernation, and we only have a handful of squads in the race for NCAA championship glory before they too take the summer off.  Entering the weekend, the Bruins were well-poised to grab at least one national title, if not more, but with the weekend over, one Bruin squad finds itself so short, yet so far from title glory, while the other squads keep trucking along.  So, let's take a look at how our various non-revenue squads have fared in NCAA tourney action so far:

--- Beginning with the #2-seeded women's water polo squad, the Lady Bruins dropped host and #3-seeded Southern Cal on Saturday in the NCAA tourney semi-final, 5-3, to set up a Sunday early evening championship game against the #1-seeded Stanford Cardinal.  The Cardinal entered the title game with an almost perfect record, their only blemish being a loss to our Bruins back in February in the UCI Invitational.  But, unfortunately for UCLA, the Lady Bruins couldn't repeat their early season triumph, faltering down the stretch after taking an early lead, and ultimately falling short, 9-5 to Stanford.

--- Turning to the diamond, the #2-ranked softball team wrapped up their regular season with a weekend series at #3-ranked Arizona State in Tempe, but things didn't get off to the best start on Thursday, with the Bruins falling short to the Sun Devils, losing 2-0. Ally Carda (6.0 IP, 2 ER, 9 K, 2 BB, 6 H) got the start for the Lady Bruins and put together a solid effort in the circle, but she got no offensive support at all, with Arizona State's Dallas Escobedo (7.0 IP, 0 ER, 7 K, 4 BB, 2 H) shutting the Bruins down.  The Bruins found some luck to turn it around on Friday though, picking up an extra-innings win over the Sun Devils to even the series, winning 9-5.  Paige McDuffee (2.0 IP, 2 ER, 1 K, 1 BB, 2 H) got the start for UCLA, but gave way to Carda (7.0 IP, 3 ER, 8 K, 5 BB, 5 H), who went a full seven to pick up a win.  But Carda wasn't satisfied with just pitching her way to victory, posting a stand-out offensive night (2-4, 4 H, 3 RBI, 2 HR), blasting her 12th homer on the year in the top of the 7th to tie the game, and launching her 13th blast in the 9th inning to give UCLA the lead for good. On Saturday, the Lady Bruins left nothing to chance, taking a commanding 9-2 win to grab the series victory.  Jessica Hill (0.1 IP, 2 ER, 0 K, 1 BB, 3 H) got the start but didn't last long, giving up two runs while only recording a single out, giving way to Ally Carda (4.2 IP, 0 ER, 4 K, 3 BB, 1 H) who came on strong to shut down the Sun Devils to earn her 29th victory on the year, thanks to a big offensive day from SS Delaney Spaulding (3-5, 1 R, 3 RBI,1 HR) and LF Gabrielle Maurice (3-4, 2 H, 1 RBI).  With the weekend series win, UCLA closes the regular season at 48-6 overall and 19-5 in the conference, good enough for second place (behind only Oregon at 49-7-1 overall and 20-3-1 in conference play).

--- With the regular season over, the softball team got seeded as the #3-seeded overall national seed, behind only #1-seeded Oregon and #2-seeded Alabama.  The Lady Bruins will host the regional action beginning this Friday, with the Bruins taking on Southern Utah on Friday at 6 p.m. PST, with the winner taking on the winner of the Long Beach State vs. Notre Dame match-up.  If the Bruins can top their regional bracket, they'll advance to the super regional against the winner of the #14-seeded Kentucky-hosted bracket, which includes the Wildcats, James Madison, Ohio, and DePaul.  Things are set up well for UCLA to make a deep run in the post-season and take a serious shot at bringing home #111, especially if national player of the year candidate Ally Carda keeps up her blistering form both in the circle and at the plate.

--- Heading over to the tennis courts, the #6-seeded men's tennis team took on Cal Poly in their opening game in the regional at the L.A. Tennis Center, dropping the Mustangs, 4-0.  The Bruins opened the match by grabbing the doubles point (8-0, 5-8, 8-5), and followed it with three straight singles wins by Joseph Di Giulio (6-3, 6-1), Karue Sell (6-1, 6-3), and Mackenzie McDonald (6-4, 6-3).  After dropping Cal Poly, the Bruins advanced to take on San Diego on Sunday, dropping the Toreros, 4-0.  Once again, UCLA opened up by grabbing the doubles point (8-3, 8-3) and followed with three straight singles wins by Sell (6-0, 6-0), Adrien Puget (6-3, 6-2), and Marcos Giron (6-3, 7-5) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen against Tennessee in Athens, Georgia this Friday.

--- The men won't be the only Bruin tennis players heading to Athens this weekend, with the #5-seeded women's tennis team beginning their NCAA journey with an easy win over Sacramento State on Friday, 4-0.  The Lady Bruins opened up the match by taking the doubles point (8-0, 8-1) and followed it with three straight singles wins by Catherine Harrison (6-1, 6-0), Jennifer Brady (6-2, 6-0), and Robin Anderson (6-1, 6-0).  Advancing in the regional at the L.A. Tennis Center, the Lady Bruins took on Ole Miss on Saturday and dispatched the Rebels just like they did with the Hornets, 4-0.  Like Friday, the Bruins took the doubles point to open the match (8-3, 8-4), and followed it by grabbing three straight singles points by Jennifer Brady (6-1, 6-1), Robin Anderson (6-2, 6-1), and Chanelle Van Nguyen (6-1, 6-3).  With the wins, the Bruins head to Athens this weekend for the Sweet Sixteen, taking on #12-seeded Miami on Thursday.

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.