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Bruin Bites: UCLA Women's Tennis Nets Big Wins over Southern Cal and Baylor

It was another busy week of action for UCLA's Olympic sports programs. The highlights include two big upset victories for our women's tennis team, another dominant performance by our women's water polo team, and a perfect weekend for our softball team.

Pac-12 Networks

Women's Tennis

Our 12th-ranked women's tennis team began a difficult week of action on Wednesday with a match against #3 Southern Cal. Doubles play typified how the rest of the match would play out: Harrison & McPhillips won on court 1 (8-3) while Fleming & Wiley lost on court 3 (4-8), leaving the decider for the doubles point to  Robin Anderson & Chanelle Van Nguyen. Fortunately, Anderson & Van Nguyen pulled out the win in a tiebreaker, 8-7(2) to claim the doubles point.

The match wasn't about to get any easier. Wins by Robin Anderson (6-4, 6-4) and Kaitlin Ray (7-5, 6-2) were offset by losses on courts 3, 4 and 6. With the match tied at 3, the matchup between Chanelle Van Nguyen and USC's Zoe Scandalis became the decider. Van Nguyen had started her contest well, taking the first set 6-2. But in the second set, Van Nguyen started to be slowed by persistent cramps. An injury timeout didn't seem to help much, and Van Nguyen was assessed a penalty point for holding up play as she struggled to serve. Scandalis took the second set 3-6, and at that point it looked as if the Bruins' upset bid was unraveling.

However, Van Nguyen took advantage of the break between sets and bounced back to take a 5-2 lead in the third set. She then fell victim to cramps again, and her third set lead crumbled quickly. But Van Nguyen fought on and managed to force a third set tiebreaker. After falling behind 2-4 in the tiebreaker, Van Nguyen rallied again in dramatic fashion, winning the next five points to claim the tiebreaker, the third set, and the match.

The Bruins only had a few days to savor their victory over Southern Cal before taking on another top-5 team. On Saturday, the Bruins were in Waco to face #4 Baylor. UCLA stumbled out of the gate, losing in doubles play on courts 1 and 3 to concede the point to Baylor. In singles, wins by Catherine Harrison (6-2, 6-1) and Kaitlin Ray (6-4, 6-2) were offset by losses by Van Nguyen (4-6, 2-6) and McPhillips (1-6, 3-6). That left the Bruins trailing 2-3 with Robin Anderson and Kristin Wiley still playing.

Wiley eventually earned a hard-fought victory on court 6 (7-5, 6-3) to tie the match score at 3 all, which left the decider in the hands of Anderson. Anderson battled but just couldn't pull away; she squeaked by her opponent to claim the first set on the back of a 7-6(5) tiebreaker win, and then followed the same path in the second set to escape with a 7-6(6) tiebreaker win in the second set. Anderson's triumph earned the Bruins the final point of the day and sent UCLA home with a second straight 4-3 upset win over a top-5 opponent. With the pair of big victories, the Bruins improve to 10-2.

The Bruins can breathe a little easier this week. They have just one match, though they have to travel to Pullman to play Washington State on Friday. The Cougars are 10-4 on the season, but are not ranked in the top-25.

Women's Basketball

UCLA's women's basketball season ended last week with a second round exit from the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle. As the tournament's sixth-seed, the Bruins (8-10 in the Pac-12) opened against a weak Arizona Wildcats team that Coach Close's team had demolished 75-41 a few weeks previously. In UCLA's tournament opener, the Bruins cruised to a comfortable 80-62 victory. UCLA jumped out to an early lead, held a 13 point cushion at the half, and coasted during the second half.

As always, Coach Close relied heavily on a deep bench, with nine Bruins playing 14 minutes or more. Nirra Fields led the scoring with 21 points and was unusually efficient with 10 field goals in 16 attempts. Jordin Canada added 10 points and 9 assists, while Monique Billings contributed 10 points and 7 boards. Against the Wildcats, UCLA shot well from beyond the arc (40%) and cut down on turnovers (13), which has been an elusive combination for this team. Here are highlights from the contest:

With the victory over the Wildcats, the Bruins advanced to a second round game against Stanford. Although UCLA put forth a valiant effort, the Bruins came up a little short at the end, losing 67-62. After falling behind by 12 late in the first half, the Bruins rallied with 7 straight points to close the gap to 33-28 at halftime. UCLA continued to match the Cardinal in the second half, and pulled even at 56 on a jump shot by Kacy Swain with just under 5 minutes left. A three-pointer by the Cardinal left UCLA chasing Stanford again, but the Bruins closed to within one point when Jordin Canada drove for a layup with 22 seconds on the clock. UCLA couldn't get any closer after that, though, and missed a late chance to tie the game when Hersler missed badly on a three-point attempt.

Jordin Canada led the Bruins with 15 points and 8 assists, Kari Korver totaled 12 points, and Kacy Swain recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Although the Bruins were relatively careful with the ball (12 turnovers) they hurt themselves with poor free throw shooting, converting on just 61% of their 18 efforts from the charity stripe. For what it's worth, Stanford went on to claim the Pac-12 tournament championship.

Although the Bruins' season is over, the news isn't all bad. Junior Nirra Fields was selected to the All-Pac-12 team, and freshman Jordin Canada was chosen as the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. In addition, freshman Monique Billings earned All-Pac-12 Freshman team honorable mention, and I suspect that freshman Recee' Caldwell would have been recognized by the conference for her outstanding play if she hadn't suffered a season-ending injury in the early part of Pac-12 play.

Finally, with the end of the season, we have to say farewell to our seniors: Corinne Costa, Luiana Livulo and Madeline Poteet. Though they haven't received the attention with which our men's basketball and football players are lavished, these three student-athletes deserve recognition for their effort, dedication, and accomplishments on and off the hardwood. We wish them the very best as they move forward and take on new challenges.

What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.

- Coach Wooden


It was a busy weekend for our 13th-ranked softball team as they played 6 games in 3 days in the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament. In the Bruins' opening game on Friday, UCLA defeated Providence 7-1 behind a complete game from freshman Selina Ta'amilo. Ta’amilo gave up just six hits and struck out five in recording her first career complete game. Ally Carda, Delaney Spaulding,  Gracie Goulder and Stephany LaRosa each smacked two hits, and Spaulding drove in four.

In the second game of Friday's doubleheader, Illinois never had a chance as Carda hurled a no-hitter, and the Bruins thrashed the Fighting Illini 14-0. The no-hitter is Carda's second of the season and third of her career. In addition to holding Illinois hitless, Carda struck out nine in five innings. At the plate, UCLA jumped on Illinois early, scoring nine in the first. Spaulding collected two more hits in the nightcap, as did LaRosa and Kylee Perez. Gabrielle Maurice added three hits in three at-bats.

The Bruins kept rolling on Saturday. In their first game of the day, UCLA knocked off Illinois again, this time by a score of 9-2. Paige McDuffee and Selina Ta'amilo combined for the win, scattering seven hits along the way and striking out six. Maurice and Maddy Jelenicki each drove in two runs,

In the nightcap, another dominant performance by Carda from the circle resulted in an 8-0 victory over UC Davis. Carda struck out a career best 14 batters in 6 innings while surrendering just three hits. At the plate, Brittany Moeai and Allexis Bennett each had a pair of hits, and Mysha Sataraka clubbed her third home run of the season.

In the first game of Sunday's doubleheader, the Bruins once again beat UC Davis, winning 10-2 behind another complete game effort from Selina Ta'amilo. Ta'amilo improved to 4-1 on the season as she stuck out five and scattered five hits over 6 strong innings. Goulder, Jelenicki, Perez and Bennett each collected two hits. Goulder and Jelenicki both drove in four, and each slammed a home run. Spaulding chipped in with her fourth home run of the season.

The Bruins closed out the tourney by blanking Providence 8-0. Once again Carda was brilliant, losing her bid for another no-hitter on a sixth inning single. Carda allowed only two baserunners through 6 frames and struck out nine along the way. At the plate, Bennett stroked three hits, while Carda and Spaulding had two apiece, and LaRosa smashed her fourth homer of the season.

With a sweep of their tournament action, the Bruins improved to 23-5 on the season. In addition, the Bruins swept the Pac-12 weekly honors: Delaney Spaulding has been named Pac-12 Player of the Week and Ally Carda has been selected as Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week.

The Bruins next opponent is ninth-ranked Baylor. The teams meet on Tuesday at Easton Stadium.

Sand Volleyball

The 2015 UCLA Sand Volleyball Team

The 2015 UCLA Bruins Sand Volleyball Team

Our seventh-ranked sand volleyball team played their season opener against Cal State Northridge on Thursday, and the Bruins started the season with a solid 4-1 over the Matadors. UCLA's only loss came from our #1 doubles pair of Ivey Schmitt and Kamila Tan; they lost 17-21, 14-21. Our #2 doubles pair of Elise Zappia and Madie Smith won their matchup in dominant fashion (21-8, 21-7), with Smith registering 12 kills and 13 digs. At #3 doubles, Julie Consani and Laurel Weaver battled to a tight, straight set victory (21-19, 21-18) with both Consani and Weaver posting double-doubles in kills and digs. Karly Drolson and Rachel Inouye followed suit with a straight set win at #4 doubles (21-14, 25-23), and at #5 doubles, Kendahl Hettick and Lexi Jasper-Baylin came from a set down to take the last matchup (16-21, 21-15, 16-14).

Next up for the Bruins is Loyola Marymount on Wednesday morning, and then the team has a 10 day lay-off before traveling to Waikiki for the Dad Center Invitational.


Men's Volleyball

On Tuesday night, our ninth-ranked men's volleyball team started the week in promising fashion with a four-set victory over #14 Cal State Northridge at Pauley Pavilion. The final score was 3-1 (16-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-23), and with the win, the Bruins evened their conference record at 6-6. Freshman J.T. Hatch led the Bruins with 17 kills, and redshirt freshman Eric Sprague added 11 kills coming off the bench. Here are highlights from the win:

Unfortunately it was a different story on Friday night against tenth-ranked Long Beach State. In a tight match, the Bruins came up short in the fifth set, losing 2-3 (25-20, 23-25, 25-27, 25-23, 11-15). Once again, Hatch led the UCLA attack; his 23 kills set a career high. Freshman opposite Christian Hessenauer registered a career best 20 kills, and sophomore libero Jackson Bantle tied a career mark with 15 digs. Although UCLA outhit the 49ers, the Bruins were undone by an avalanche of errors: 25 service errors and 28 errors in attack, which amounts to more than two full sets in terms of points. As in baseball, teams can score without the ball in volleyball, and the Bruins were particularly generous in adding to the 49ers point total in each set. With the loss, UCLA moves to 6-7 in conference play, dropping them into eighth place. Coach Speraw's young team will need to show significant improvement during the latter half of conference play if it has any hope of qualifying for the NCAA tournament in 2015.

Women's Water Polo

Our top-ranked women's water polo team had a single game this past week, and once again delivered a top-notch performance. At Spieker Aquatics Center on Sunday afternoon, the Bruins thumped #4 Cal, 10-3. After conceding two early goals to the Golden Bears, the Bruins shut down the Cal attack until the last quarter, but by then UCLA had jumped out to a 7 goal lead. Junior Kodi Hill led the Bruins in scoring with a hat trick and sophomore Mackenzie Barr notched a brace. Senior Sami Hill had a superb game in goal with six saves. With the victory, UCLA grabs sole possession of first place in the MPSF with a 2-0 record and improves to 16-1 overall.

Men's Tennis

Our #16 men's tennis team hosted and toasted #26 Tulsa last Tuesday, blanking the Hurricane 5-0. The Bruins won the doubles point without losing a single game on either of the winning courts, and then registered straight set wins in singles on courts 1-4 to close out the match. The extent of UCLA's dominance is reflected in the fact that the Bruins dropped just one set throughout the day. The victory takes the Bruins to 8-5 on the season and gives them momentum heading into a big match against Southern Cal on Saturday.

Those are your Bruins Bites for the week. As you watch our men's basketball team fight to advance in the conference tournament later this week, please remember that there are literally hundreds of our student-athletes who give toil, tears and sweat in representing the four letters, yet receive a small fraction of the attention that goes to our "revenue sport" athletes. Let's make an effort to better recognize their contributions to our great university.