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UCLA Bruin Bites: Seeing Cardinal

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It was another busy week for UCLA's Olympic sports student-athletes. Four of our teams squared off against the Cardinal, but only two came away with victories. Meanwhile, our men's volleyball team has a Friday showdown with the Cardinal for the final spot in the MPSF tournament, and our tennis teams have crucial back-to-back matches against Southern Cal on Thursday.

@uclasandvb

Softball

Our eighth-ranked Bruins opened the week with a Wednesday game against Cal State Fullerton. After a disheartening series loss to Oregon, UCLA needed to get back to winning ways, and they did so in style against the Titans.

The Bruins' bats awoke in the second inning to bring six runs across the plate. A bases-loaded single by junior Mysha Sataraka drove in the first two, a double by junior Allexis Bennett scored two more, and a single by sophomore Delaney Spaulding drove in the sixth run of the inning.

Johanna Grauer pitched the first four innings of the contest, blanking the Titans on two hits. UCLA added a run in the bottom of the fourth on a bases loaded walk by junior Brittany Moeai, to give freshman reliever Selina Ta'amilo a seven run lead to protect.

A pair of UCLA errors gifted the Titans a run in the fifth, however sophomore Jelly Felix ripped a home run to left to end the game and give the Bruins' a much-needed 9-1 win.

The win improved Grauer's record to 7-1. Player of the Year finalists Ally Carda and Allexis Bennett each had two hits.

The Bruins were in Palo Alto on Friday for a weekend series with the Cardinal. In the opener, the Bruins relied on the long ball to club the Cardinal 12-4 in six innings.

The Bruins bats were hot right from the start of the game. A two-run homer by senior Stephany LaRosa gave UCLA a first inning 2-0 lead, and the Bruins added five more runs in the second, with three of them coming home courtesy of a deep shot to left by freshman Kylee Perez.

With Ally Carda in the circle, the Bruins didn't need more, but they kept pushing runs across the plate. UCLA added two more in the fourth on singles by sophomore Gabrielle Maurice and freshman Maddy Jelenicki, another in the fifth, and two more in the sixth when Spaulding hammered her seventh homer of the season. That made the score 12-4, and Stanford was judged to have been beaten badly enough.

Although Carda was far from her best, she was kept the Cardinal batters under control. Carda pitched 5 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits. She struck out eight. Selina Ta'amilo pitched a scoreless sixth in relief.

Five Bruins had a multi-hit game: Carda, Spaulding, LaRosa, Perez, and Maurice.

The Bruins' bats remained red hot on Saturday. For the second day in a row, UCLA scored two in the first. Spaulding crushed a solo homer to left to open the scoring, and singles by LaRosa and Moeai followed by a sacrifice fly by Perez accounted for the second run.

Unfortunately Johanna Grauer couldn't get out of the first; she walked three, hit another batter, and balked before being replaced by Selina Ta'amilo. Although the Cardinal scored two in the bottom half of the first, Ta'amilo kept the Cardinal in check the rest of the way, conceding just one run on two hits and striking out five in five innings of work.

Meanwhile, the Bruins kept scoring. UCLA added eight more runs in the third, and another eight in the fourth. Among the hits was a homer by Carda--her fifth of the year--and another by LaRosa, her eighth of the season. The Cardinal were put out of their misery after five innings, giving the Bruins an 18-3 win.

Selina Ta'amilo improved to 6-2 on the season in a fine relief effort. Six Bruins enjoyed a multi-hit game, including Carda, LaRosa, Moeai, Sataraka, Maurice, and Bennett.

The final game of the series saw Ally Carda return to the circle. However, Carda only lasted two innings--not because she was ineffective, but because the Bruins were leading by seven at that point. A single through the middle scored the Bruins' first run, and a double by Moeai scored the second. A double by Jelenicki brought home a third, and a single slapped up the middle by Maurice made it 4-0 UCLA through one inning.

At the end of two, UCLA held a 6-0 lead. A double by Bennett and a single by Carda put two on to lead off the inning. Spaulding sprayed a single to right to score Bennett, and one out later, Carda scored on a groundout by Moeai.

The Bruins pushed another run across in the third. A lead off triple by Maddy Jelenicki was followed one out later by an RBI groundout by senior Gracie Goulder.

Going to the bottom of the third, holding a seven run lead, Johanna Grauer came in to pitch. Although she was a bit wild and gave up a two-run homer in the bottom of the third, she settled down to keep the Cardinal bats quiet.

As they'd done all weekend, the UCLA batters kept hitting. The Bruins added an eighth run in the fifth inning when Allexis Bennett drove home a run with a bunt that became an infield double. UCLA tallied two more runs in the sixth when Jelenicki drove a bases-loaded single up the middle to give the Bruins a commanding 10-2 lead.

After the Cardinal failed to score in the sixth, the mercy rule ended Stanford's day and gave the Bruins a series sweep.

Grauer was awarded the win for her four innings of work. Her record for the season now stands at 8-1. The batting stars for the Bruins were Maddy Jelenicki with three hits, a home run and three RBI, and Allexis Bennett with three doubles. Ally Carda, Stephany LaRosa, and Brittany Moeai each collected a pair of hits.

After a perfect week, the Bruins are 35-8 overall and 9-3 in the Pac-12, good for second place, trailing the top-ranked Oregon Ducks by one game in the loss column. UCLA hosts the Cal Golden Bears this weekend.

By the way, in case you missed it, two of our Bruins were selected in the recent National Pro Fastpitch College Draft. Seniors Ally Carda and Stephany LaRosa went at #27 and #29, respectively.

Congratulations to Ally Carda and Stephany LaRosa!

Women's Water Polo

It was a big week for our top-ranked women's water polo team in spite of the fact that they had a single match. The Bruins were in Palo Alto for a showdown with their main rival and the number two team in the nation. The Bruins only loss of the season had come at Stanford back on February 1, and the Bruins had managed a double overtime victory against the Cardinal in a rematch three weeks later. This match would decide the MPSF title.

It was exactly the kind of game you'd expect from a matchup between these two powerhouses. Stanford jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but the Bruins closed the gap to 3-1 to end the first quarter thanks to a goal from senior Emily Donohoe.

UCLA kept coming in the second. After surrendering a goal to open the quarter, the Bruins struck back with goals from junior Charlotte Pratt and junior All-American Rachel Fattal. At the half, Stanford led by one, 4-3.

The Cardinal and the Bruins each scored once in the third. With one second left in the period, Donohoe scored her second of the game to pull UCLA back to within one.

As they'd done all game, the Cardinal struck first in the final quarter. After conceding a pair of goals and falling behind 7-4, Fattal scored again, but Stanford responded with their third goal of the fourth quarter to put the Cardinal up 8-5. However, there was no quit in the Bruins. Donohoe scored her third of the game and Pratt added her second to pull the Bruins back within one, but UCLA never got closer. The match finished with Stanford ahead, 8-7.

The disappointing loss drops UCLA to 20-2 overall and 4-1 in the MPSF, tied with Southern Cal for second. The Bruins will have a chance to break that tie when they host the Trojans on Saturday at 1:00 PM PDT. And of course, UCLA may have another chance or two to battle Stanford again--the MPSF tournament starts on April 24th, and the NCAA tournament gets underway on May 8th ... in Palo Alto.

Sand Volleyball

It was a very busy weekend for the eighth-ranked Bruins. The Bruins were in Palo Alto for the Stanford Invitational, and began the weekend with a 4-1 thumping of the California Golden Bears. It wasn't easy on the top court, where Kamila Tan and Zoë Nightingale had to fight back after dropping the opening set, 19-21. The Bruins #1 doubles pair came back strong to take the second set, 21-10, and then built a big lead in the third set before Cal dug in. The Golden Bears duo saved six match points before Tan & Nightingale closed out the final set, 15-13.

The Bruins' #2 pair, Elise Zappia and Madie Smith, powered their way to a solid 21-14, 21-7 victory, while UCLA's most consistent pair, Julie Consani and Laurel Weaver, won comfortably, 21-14, 21-12. Likewise, on court 4, Karly Drolson and Rachel Inouye were always in complete control, winning 21-5, 21-6.

The Bruins were up early on Saturday morning to face the #15 Cardinal. Once again, Nightingale/Tan dropped the opening set before roaring back to claim the point (11-21, 21-16, 15-9). On court 2, Zappia/Smith earned another straight sets victory (25-23, 21-10), and on court 4, Drolson/Inouye continued their strong weekend with a 21-8, 21-14 victory. Although Consani/Weaver lost a tight, three-set match on court 3, the Bruins' #5 pair of Lexi Jasper-Baylin and Ivey Schmitt came back to claim the Bruins' fourth point of the match by clawing their way to a 17-31, 21-16, 16-14 win.

The Bruins barely had time to catch their breath before their closing match of team play against Saint Mary's was underway. Nightingale/Tan needed three sets to defeat the Gaels' #1 pair, 21-19, 10-21, 15-8, and the same was true for Smith/Zappia as they squeezed out a win against the Gaels' No. 2 pair, 21-18, 19-21, 15-13. Consani/Weaver bounced back from their early morning defeat to take their battle on court 3 in straight sets, 21-16, 21-15. Drolson/Inouye had little trouble with the Gaels' #4 duo, 21-13, 21-11, and Jasper-Baylin/Schmitt completed the sweep for UCLA with a straight sets win at court 5.

Although the Bruins completed team play in the Stanford Invitational on Saturday, UCLA was well-represented in the Pairs Tournament on Sunday. The Pairs Tournament consisted of three competition divisions, comprising the No.1/2 Division, the No. 3/4 Division, and the No. 5/6 Division. UCLA had two pairs competing in each division.

In the top division, the Bruins' #1 pair of Kamila Tan and Zoë Nightingale advanced to the title game only to have a formidable foe waiting for them--the Bruins' #2 pair of Elise Zappia and Madie Smith. Tan and Nightingale prevailed 21-15, 21-15 to claim the No. 1/2 Division championship.

In the middle division, the Bruins' #3 pair of Julie Consani and Laurel Weaver lost their quarterfinal match, but the UCLA #4 duo of Karly Drolson and Rachel Inouye won the No. 3/4 Division championship in impressive fashion, sweeping through the competition without dropping a set.

In the lower division, UCLA's #5 team of Lexi Jasper-Baylin and Ivey Schmitt captured the No. 5/6 Division championship with a comeback victory over the #6 pair from Stanford, 19-21, 21-16, 21-19.

The Bruins' sweep of the Stanford Invitational Pairs Tournament capped a tremendously successful weekend of action for Coach Metzger's squad. The three victories in the Stanford Invitational take the Bruins to 8-1 for the season.

Mini Bites

Women's Tennis

The fourth-ranked UCLA women's tennis team hosted Colorado and Utah last week. The Bruins steamrollered Colorado on Friday, winning all seven points without dropping a set. In doubles, Robin Anderson & Jennifer Brady won 8-1, Catherine Harrison & Kyle McPhillips also won 8-1, and Chanelle Van Nguyen & Kristin Wiley won 8-3.

In singles, it was more of the same. Anderson dropped just one game against her opponent, 6-0, 6-1, while Brady netted a shutout on court 2, 6-0, 6-0. Harrison dominated on court 3, 6-0, 6-1, and on court 4, Kaitlin Ray cruised to a 6-1, 6-4 win. On court 5, Wiley demolished Kyra Wojcik 6-2, 6-3, and in the final singles match, Terri Fleming blew away Ashley Tiefel, 6-1, 6-0.

With the blanking of Colorado, the Bruins moved to 7-1 in the Pac-12.

Saturday was senior day--the last regular season home game for Robin Anderson, Kaitlin Ray, and Chanelle Van Nguyen, three key members of last year's national championship team.

Against the Utes, the Bruins copied the blueprint from the previous day. UCLA crushed Utah 7-0, and once again, didn't drop a set. Victories by Anderson/Brady (8-5) and Van Nguyen/Wiley (8-2) awarded UCLA the doubles point. In singles, Anderson (6-4, 6-1), Brady (6-2, 6-3), Harrison (6-2, 6-2), Ray (6-2, 6-2), Wiley (6-0, 6-2), and Fleming (6-2, 6-2) all claimed very comfortable wins to rake in all of the singles points.

The weekend sweep puts UCLA at 18-3 overall and 8-1 in the Pac-12. UCLA is currently tied with Cal for second place, one game behind Southern Cal. That makes Thursday's 11:30 AM (PDT) match against USC a crucial showdown. The match will be televised on the Pac-12 networks starting at noon, and will be followed by the UCLA-USC men's tennis match.

By the way, Robin Anderson continues to earn recognition for her outstanding tennis:

Men's Tennis

Our #15 men's tennis team headed to the Bay Area last week with a five-game winning streak. Unfortunately, the Bruins' winning ways came to an abrupt halt on Friday afternoon in Palo Alto as #36 Stanford pulled off an upset, defeating UCLA 4-3.

The Bruins stumbled out of the gate, losing doubles matches on courts 1 and 3 to hand Stanford the first point of the match. In singles, Mackenzie McDonald found himself in a tight battle, but he eventually took the point on court 1, 7-6(6), 6-7(6), (10-8). Dennis Mkrtchian claimed a second point for UCLA with a straight sets win on court 3, and Karue Sell added UCLA's third point with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win. But that was all the points that the Bruins could take. Stanford snagged the singles points on courts 2 and 6, and ultimately won the match in a third set tiebreaker on court 5.

The disappointing loss to the Cardinal handed the Bruins their first Pac-12 defeat and put Stanford a full game ahead of UCLA in the Pac-12 standings.

The following day the Bruins were in Berkeley to face the #27 Golden Bears. This time the Bruins started well, and claimed the doubles point with convincing wins for the pairs of Joseph DiGiulio/Karue Sell (6-0) and Dennis Mrkrtchian/Austin Rapp (6-3).

In singles, Martin Redlicki bounced back from a tough outing the previous day to take the point on court 2 in straight sets, 6-2 7-6(4). Karue Sell fought back on court 4 to earn the Bruins' third point of the day with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory. UCLA captured the fourth and deciding point of the match behind Dennis Mrkrtchian, 6-3, 0-6, 6-4.

The 4-1 defeat of Cal improved the Bruins season record to 14-7, and kept them within a game of first place in the Pac-12 at 5-1. In fact, UCLA and Southern Cal are tied for second in the conference, but that deadlock will be broken today when the Bruins host the Trojans at 2 PM (PDT).

Men's Volleyball

The Bruins wobbled through the penultimate week of MPSF matches. On Friday night, against the fourth-ranked, second-place UCI Anteaters, the Bruins played reasonably well, but lost in four sets, 19-25,25-21,21-25,20-25. Once again, UCLA was generous at the service line, committing 21 errors while earning just three aces. The Bruins also suffered from self-inflicted wounds in receiving serve; they totaled seven serve reception errors and barely managed to register a serve reception percentage over 90%. Not good.

The Bruins looked better in attack, though. They hit .381 for the match, and were in single digits in attack errors. Freshman Jake Arnitz led the way with 15 kills and collected two of the Bruins' three aces.. Sophomore Mitch Stahl and freshman J.T. Hatch notched 13 and 11 kills, respectively. Sophomore Jackson Bantle registered 13 digs and freshman Eric Matheis added 46 assists.

On Saturday, the Bruins rebounded against the woeful UCSD Tritons (2-24, 0-20). It was Senior Night at Pauley Pavilion, marking the final home game for senior middle blockers Trent Kersten and Clayton Paullin. As expected, UCLA had very little trouble earning a straight sets victory, 26-24, 25-17, 25-18, but the Bruins weren't as dominant as I expected.

Seniors Paullin and Kersten were very good in their final match at Pauley. Kersten hit .750 with six kills and four block assists, and Paullin hit .778 with seven kills. But it was freshman sensation J.T. Hatch who once again stood out, leading the Bruins with 17 kills, 10 digs, and 2 aces. Freshman Eric Matheis distributed 40 assists. Sophomore Michael Fisher played well as a substitute, collecting 6 kills and an ace.

The Bruins are now 12-13 overall and 8-13 in the MPSF. They are clinging to eighth place, half a game ahead of Stanford.

The final MPSF tournament berth will be determined this week. UCLA controls its own destiny; a win against Stanford on Friday in Palo Alto will clinch the last playoff spot for the Bruins. The Bruins aren't eliminated with a loss against the Cardinal, but the playoff picture at that point starts to become very complicated. The Bruins currently lead in the head-to-head tiebreaker against Stanford by virtue of a 3-0 sweep in Westwood. However, if the Cardinal win out by beating UCLA and UCSB, the Bruins will miss the postseason. If Stanford beats the Bruins but loses to UCSB, then the tiebreaker will come into effect, so UCLA needs hold onto the lead in the tiebreaker at the very least. You can follow the action on Friday at 7 PM PDT.

Those are your Bruin Bites for this week. Remember that the gymnastics team is in action this week as they travel to Fort Worth to compete in the NCAA Team Semifinals. The competition begins on Friday, and Bruins Nation will have a preview and a competition thread. Please join us as we follow the action and root for our Bruins.

Go BRUINS!