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Bruin Bites: Sweet Sixteen Edition

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While our men's basketball team was deservedly grabbing headlines as it advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, our women's basketball team earned a place in the Sweet Sixteen of the WNIT with a pair of victories. In other action, our softball team won an important series in Washington, the women's tennis team earned a split against the Bay Area teams, and our sand volleyball team won gold.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Women's Basketball

In my recap of the men's basketball game against SMU in the second round of the NCAA tournament, I noted that the game was a microcosm of the Bruins' season--it encapsulated the good, bad and ugly that we'd seen throughout the year. Sadly, the same can be said of UCLA's first two games in the WNIT. There were moments when Coach Close's team expressed its great potential, but there were also plenty of reminders of the bad habits that resulted in a sixth place finish in the Pac-12 and a sub-.500 record. Nevertheless, against inferior opponents, the Bruins came away with a pair of victories and a date with Northern Colorado on Thursday in the Sweet Sixteen of the WNIT.

The Bruins opened their WNIT journey against Cal State Bakersfield. The Roadrunners looked bewildered in the first few minutes of the game, and the Bruins took advantage by scoring the first 11 points of the game.

UCLA then reverted to bad habits; turnovers, poor shot selection and dreadful free throw shooting kept the Roadrunners in the game. The Bruins led by 10 at the half, 36-26, and it should have been more.

The second half was much like the first. UCLA jumped out to a 19 point lead, and then gave most of it back. With a little more than 9 minutes remaining, the Roadrunners had closed to within 7. At that point, the Bruins regrouped and took advantage of their superiority in the paint. UCLA pushed their lead to double digits again, and the Roadrunners ran out of road.

The final score, 70-54, flattered Coach Close's squad. Junior Nirra Fields led the Bruins with a double-double: 26 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman Lajahna Drummer also registered a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Overall, Coach Close should have been more concerned than pleased by her team's performance.

  • The Good: The Bruins outrebounded the Roadrunners by 22 boards.
  • The Bad: UCLA shot just 57.1% from the charity stripe (16-28).
  • The Ugly: UCLA committed 24 turnovers.


On Sunday the Bruins headed south to face San Diego in a WNIT second round contest. This time it was UCLA's turn to start cold, and after nearly 5 minutes, the Bruins were trailing the Toreros 14-3. At that point, UCLA woke up and fought back with an 8-0 run to close the gap to 3. The game then see-sawed back and forth, with the Bruins and the Toreros taking turns making mini-runs. San Diego took a one-point lead into the half, 30-29, thanks to nine first-half turnovers by UCLA.

The Bruins gradually asserted themselves in the second half. UCLA took its first lead of the game six minutes into the second half courtesy of a Jordin Canada layup. UCLA's lead ballooned to nine when Kari Korver hit a jumper with about 5 and a half minutes on the clock, but the Toreros were within four again inside the 2 minute mark. But Monique Billings slammed the door on San Diego with a late steal, length-of-the-court drive for a score, followed by a big block at the other end of the court.

The Bruins kept the game close in the final minute with a turnover and a couple of missed free throws, but USD couldn't take advantage. In spite of reverting to bad habits, the Bruins escaped San Diego with a 63-58 win.

Nirra Fields once again led all scorers with 22. Freshman Jordin Canada added 15.

UCLA will host Northern Colorado on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion with the winner advancing to the WNIT's round of eight.

Softball

The ninth-ranked Bruins were in the northwest this past weekend for a three game series against #17 Washington. In an important early season Pac-12 matchup, the Bruins captured the first two games in the series to stay close to Oregon in the race for the conference title.

In the opener, the Bruins bats were quiet until the fifth. Ally Carda was not at her best, surrendering a run in the first and two more in the third. Down 3-0, the Bruins evened the score in the top of the fifth when Delaney Spaulding clubbed a three-run homer to left.

In the sixth, the Bruins scored seven more, which was more than enough for Carda. She blanked the Huskies the rest of the way to give UCLA a 10-3 victory.

Delaney Spaulding led the Bruins with 2 hits and four RBIs. Carda allowed 4 hits and 4 walks, but struck out 6 in 7 innings.

The Bruins needed a comeback in the second game of the series too. Freshman Selina Ta'amilo started in the circle for UCLA, but lasted only two innings after giving up two runs on two hits and three walks.

The Bruins struck back in the top of the third. A Gracie Goulder single was followed by a pair of walks, and Kylee Perez pushed the first run home with an infield single. A wild pitch and a throwing error brought home two more, and Delaney Spaulding drove home the fourth run of the inning with a double into the gap in right-center. Maddy Jelenicki's single to center scored Spaulding with the fifth run of the inning.

The Bruins added three more runs in the fifth. Two walks, a Goulder single, and a double by Allexis Bennett gave UCLA an 8-2 lead.

Ally Carda allowed two unearned runs in the seventh while pitching in relief, but the Bruins prevailed, 8-4. The victory extended UCLA's winning streak to 15 games and gave Carda her third save of the year. The win went to freshman Johanna Grauer who pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief; her record improved to 6-0.

Gabrielle Maurice led the UCLA offense with three hits, and Gracie Goulder chipped in with a pair of singles.

In the final game of the road trip on Monday, the Bruins came up short, losing 6-2. Selina Ta'amilo had a rocky outing, giving up 5 runs in a third of an inning. Johanna Grauer was effective in relief, allowing just two hits and a run in 5 2/3 innings, but the damage was done.

UCLA chipped away at the Huskies' six run lead, scoring runs in the third and fourth. Even though the Bruins outhit Washington 7-4, UCLA couldn't string together enough hits to threaten the Huskies' lead in the final three innings.

Delaney Spaulding led UCLA batters with a pair of hits, including her sixth homer of the season.

The loss snapped the Bruins 15 game winning streak dropped UCLA (29-6, 5-1) into second place in the Pac-12, one game behind Oregon.

The Bruins have a heavy schedule this week, starting with an away game against Cal State Northridge on Thursday. The Bruins then host first place Oregon for a three-game series this weekend. The weekend series against the Ducks could well determine the winner of the Pac-12 title this season, so let's hope that Ally Carda is back to her best.

Women's Tennis

Our fifth-ranked women's tennis team hosted Cal and Stanford this past week with mixed results.

Against #3 Cal, the Bruins stumbled out of the gate, dropping the doubles point with losses on courts 1 and 3 even though Robin Anderson and Jennifer Brady won their doubles match on court 2, 8-6.

UCLA fell behind 3-0 with losses in singles on courts 3 and 5, but crept back into the match with wins by Kristin Wiley (6-1, 6-3) and Robin Anderson (2-6, 6-3, 6-4). Unfortunately, Catherine Harrison's victory on court 4 was offset by a loss on court 2, giving the Golden Bears a narrow 4-3 win.

Although the loss dropped the Bruins behind Cal in the Pac-12, there was a silver lining: Jennifer Brady's return to action after missing nearly two months with an injury should give the Bruins a real boost as they enter the final month of the season.

The Bruins bounced back against #10 Stanford. UCLA claimed the doubles point with wins by Anderson/Brady (8-0) and Van Nguyen/Wiley (8-3).

Catherine Harrison doubled the UCLA lead with a win on court 4, 6-0, 6-3. After losing on court 2, Robin Anderson gave UCLA a 3-1 lead with a straight sets victory on court 1, 6-3, 6-2. Stanford edged closer with a win on court 5, but the Bruins finished off the Cardinal with straight set wins by Kristin Wiley and Kyle McPhillips.

The 5-2 defeat of Stanford puts UCLA at 12-3 for the season and 2-1 in the Pac-12.  The Bruins head north this weekend for matches against Washington (Friday) and Oregon (Saturday).

Gymnastics

In case you missed it, brugym has a fantastic recap of the action from the Pac-12 championships in Utah. The #7 UCLA Gymnastics team finished second behind Utah and just ahead of Stanford and Oregon State.

The Bruins will next travel to Columbus, Ohio to compete in the NCAA Regional on April 4th. The other teams in the Columbus Regional include #6 Michigan, #18 Arizona, #21 Central Michigan, #26 Kentucky, and #32 Ohio State.

Sand Volleyball

The Bruins were in Waikiki at the Dad Center Founder's Cup Championships this past weekend. UCLA was represented by a pair of doubles teams--the Bruins #1 team of Kamila Tan and Ivey Schmitt and our #2 team of Elise Zappia and Madie Smith.

Tan and Schmitt split their pool play matches, defeating Backlund & Cheshire of Oregon State before losing to Stonish & Hines of Southern Cal. Zappia and Smith also split their pool play matches with a victory against Nady & Shebby of Oregon and a loss to Hinger & Randazzo from Cal State Northridge.

In the semifinals the following day, Zappia and Smith defeated the pair from USC to advance to the championship match against CSUN's Hinger & Randazzo. Zappia and Smith rose to the occasion, beating the Northridge pair to claim tournament gold.

Although Tan and Schmitt lost in their semifinal against Hinger/Randazzo on Sunday, they knocked off the USC pair in the third-place match to claim bronze.

The sand volleyball team returns to action on Saturday against #13 Saint Mary's. The match will be played at the Sunset Canyon Sand Volleyball Courts

Mini-Bites

Men's Volleyball

There's no question that the men's volleyball team has struggled this season as Coach Speraw has experimented with different lineups in search of a winning formula. The team has been guilty of the kind of inconsistency and error-prone play that you'd expect from such a young group. But UCLA's opportunity to turn the season around is quickly slipping away, so the Bruins have to start showing growth and improvement immediately.

After a week off, the Bruins have to be ready to step up their game. An away game against Cal Baptist on Thursday opens the week for UCLA, and a trip across town to take on Southern Cal follows on Saturday night.

Women's Water Polo

The UCLA women's water polo wasn't in action last week, but nevertheless held onto the top spot in the national rankings. The Bruins travel to Honolulu this week, and return to the pool on Thursday for an exhibition match against Brazil's national team. UCLA then squares off against #7 Hawai'i on Friday night and #17 San Diego State on Saturday night.

Men's Tennis

A week after losing to Southern Cal and dropping five spots in the national rankings, our #19 men's tennis team hosted UNLV yesterday. Although the Bruins began doubles play without their top pair ( Mackenzie McDonald and Martin Redlicki), the pair of Dennis Mkrtchian and Austin Rapp gave UCLA a good start with a 6-1 win on court 2. Unfortunately the Rebels grabbed wins on courts 1 and 3 to take the doubles point.

Trailing 0-1, the Bruins responded with six wins in singles. Karue Sell started the comeback with a 6-1, 6-1 straight sets victory, which was followed by an equally impressive 6-0, 6-2 triumph by Joseph Di Giulio. UCLA continued to add to its point total with straight sets wins by Redlicki, Rapp, Brymer, and Mkrtchian. The Bruins' dominance in singles propelled UCLA to a 6-1 thrashing of the Rebels and improved the Bruins to 9-6 on the season.

If you want more details about the match, you'll want to read the story at UNLV's official site--UCLA's athletic department couldn't be bothered to provide scores or lineups for the match.

UCLA has two important conference games this week. On Friday and Saturday, the Bruins host Oregon and Washington, respectively. Friday's match against Oregon starts at noon and will be televised on the Pac-12 network.

Those are your Bruins Bites for the week. This is a busy week of competition for our student-athletes, with midweek games in baseball and softball, Sweet Sixteen games for both the men's and women's basketball teams at the end of the week, followed by an action-packed weekend. There will be a game thread for the men's volleyball match against Southern Cal on Saturday evening; please stop by to root for Coach Speraw's team with your fellow Bruins.

Go BRUINS!