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Conference Championship Week, Day 3 - Volleyball, Water Polo, Tennis - Previews & Game Thread

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The Bruins face Southern Cal in the semifinals of the MPSF Women's Water Polo Championship this afternoon. Tonight, our men's volleyball team needs to topple the top-seeded Anteaters to keep their postseason alive.

@UCLAMVB

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Bruins take on the Eaters for the 1st round of MPSF Playoffs at 7pm @ the UCI Bren Ctr! <a href="http://t.co/CPsGWWKjLH">http://t.co/CPsGWWKjLH</a> <a href="http://t.co/U8sKRQeSn1">pic.twitter.com/U8sKRQeSn1</a></p>&mdash; UCLA M. Volleyball (@UCLAMVB) <a href="https://twitter.com/UCLAMVB/status/591995280221843456">April 25, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Men's Volleyball

Opponent: #2 UC Irvine (25-4, 19-3)

When: Saturday, April 25, 7:00 PM PDT

Where: Bren Events Center, Irvine, CA

Watch Online: UC Irvine Athletics

Audio: Bruin Live Audio

Live Stats: UC Irvine Live Stats

Resources: Official PreviewMatch Notes

If you haven't had a chance to watch our men's volleyball team this year, today may be your last chance. Unless the #12 Bruins can knock off the top-seeded, #2 Anteaters in tonight's MPSF tournament quarterfinal, John Speraw's squad will be finished for the season. The young but talented Bruins have struggled against the elite teams in the MPSF this campaign, and growing pains caused UCLA to slump to a 9-13, eighth-place MPSF regular season finish. The Bruins overall record stands at 13-13.

In contrast, while UCI is not the most dangerous team in the country, they are probably the most consistent. Though they occupy the second spot behind Lewis in the latest AVCA poll, they have been the best team in the nation throughout the course of the season. The Anteaters (25-4) captured the MPSF regular season title with a 19-3 mark, and feature the MPSF Player of the Year in senior opposite Zack La Cavera. UCI placed three other players on the All-MPSF First-Team (sophomore outside hitter Tamir Hershko, junior middle blocker Jason Agopian, and senior libero Michael Brinkley), so the Anteaters have no shortage of firepower and experience.

The Bruins may not have much experience, but they have a roster brimming with talented underclassmen. Outside hitter J.T. Hatch was selected as MPSF Freshman of the Year. He's joined on the All-MPSF Freshman Team by outside hitter Jake Arnitz. Hatch was also selected All-MPSF Second-Team. Sophomore middle blocker Mitch Stahl joins Hatch on the All-MPSF Second-Team roster, as does UCLA's sole upperclassman starter, middle blocker Trent Kersten. Although freshman opposite Christian Hessenauer wasn't named to the conference All-Freshman team, he's been a solid starter for the Bruins since the end of January.

Unfortunately, the setter position for the Bruins has been unsettled. The returning starter from 2014 is no longer with the team, and sophomore Hagen Smith is out for the season with a hand injury. Those developments mean that freshman Eric Matheis is now running the offense, and although he's filled in admirably under the circumstances, he's definitely learning on the job.

Sophomore and former opposite Jackson Bantle is in his first season as full-time libero.

The Bruins and Anteaters have already met twice this year. Two months ago, UCI swept UCLA in Irvine. Two weeks ago in a rematch, UCLA won the second set before succumbing to UCI 3-1. The Bruins provided a much stiffer challenge to the Anteaters the second time around, and they'll need to lift their performance another notch to knock off UCI tonight.

Although the Anteaters are clear favorites to advance to the MPSF tournament semifinals, this feels to me more like a 3-6 matchup than a 1-8 duel. The Bruins have shown improvement in the final weeks of the season, and they're definitely getting stronger. On the other hand, although the Anteaters are a terrific team, they're built for marathons, not sprints; I think they're more vulnerable in a single-elimination tournament than previous MPSF regular season champions. Therefore I think that the Bruins have a higher than expected probability of pulling off a big upset. (By the way, I rate #5 Pepperdine as the most dangerous team in the tournament.)

The Bruins come into the match after a confidence-boosting sweep of Stanford. If the Bruins can ride the momentum from their previous game and take an early lead in tonight's contest, the Anteaters may find themselves in a real battle.

Go BRUINS!

Women's Water Polo

Opponent: #3 Southern Cal (22-3, 4-2)

When: Saturday, April 25, 12:30 PM PDT

Where: Mona Plummer Aquatics Center, Tempe, AZ

Watch Online: ASU Pac-12 Video

Resources: Official PreviewUCLA Press Release

Our second-ranked Bruins are back in the pool again today after demolishing the Roadrunners 17-6 yesterday. After watching his starters overwhelm CSUB with seven unanswered goals in the opening frame, Coach Brooks gave his reserves a lot of time in the pool in order to keep his starters fresh for the rest of the tournament.

Senior Sami Hill started in goal as usual, holding the Roadrunners to two goals in a half of action and collecting nine saves. Junior Alex Musselman recorded four saves in relief of Hill.

Danielle Ferraro scored five goals to pace UCLA's potent attack. All-American Rachel Fattal and freshman Alexis Angermund each added a hat trick, and junior India Forster and sophomore Ashley Zwirner each notched a brace. Senior Emily Donohoe and sophomore Mackenzie Barr scored the other goals.

The Bruins' opponent in the tournament semifinals is #3 USC. The Trojans beat San Jose State 19-8 in their quarterfinal match.

This will be the third meeting of the year between the Bruins and Trojans. UCLA won the first encounter 5-3 in the UCI Invitational, and then defeated Southern Cal 9-5 when they met last week. Although the Bruins have the edge in today's contest, it's bound to be a tough, tight battle. The winner will likely face #1 Stanford for the tournament championship, and there will be considerable NCAA tournament implications resting on the outcome of the remaining MPSF tournament games.

Go BRUINS! Beat SC!

Women's Tennis

When: Saturday, April 25, 10:30 AM

Where: Ojai Valley Tennis Club, Ojai, CA

Live Stats: Pac-12 Live Results

Official Preview: None (Thanks, Dan!)

Friday was not kind to the Bruins in the Pac-12 Championship tournament and the Pac-12 Invitational tournament. Both UCLA doubles teams lost their opening round matches, and half of the six Bruins were unable to advance from their quarterfinal matches.

Because the Pac-12 has done a terrible job of providing reliable live scoring and has failed to post match results in a sensible, easy to find way, the results from yesterday are summarized below:

Pac-12 Championship Singles (Quarterfinals)

  • Klara Fabikova (CAL) def. Jennifer Brady (UCLA), 6-0, 6-1
  • Catherine Harrison (UCLA) def. Tereza Bekerova (UTAH), 6-2, 6-4
  • Zoë Scandalis (USC) def. No. 2 Chanelle Van Nguyen (UCLA), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4
Pac-12 Championship Doubles (Round of 16)
  • Klara Fabikova/Zsofi Susanyi (CAL) def. Chanelle Van Nguyen/Kristin Wiley (UCLA), 8-2
Pac-12 Invitational Singles (Quarterfinals)

  • Kaitlin Ray (UCLA) def. Devin Chypyha (UA), 7-5, 6-2
Pac-12 Invitational Doubles (Round of 16)
  • Lynn Chi/Karla Popovic (CAL) def. Terri Fleming/Maia Magill (UCLA), 8-6

Catherine Harrison is the only Bruin still competing in the Pac-12 Championships. She'll be back on the court this morning at 10:30 AM for her semifinal match.

UCLA Semifinal Opponent
Catherine Harrison Zoe Scandalis (USC)

Two Bruins--Terri Fleming and Kaitlin Ray--survived their quarterfinal matches in the Pac-12 Invitational tournament. Unfortunately, they've been drawn against each other in their semifinal match this morning at 10:30 AM.

UCLA Semifinal Opponent
Kaitlin Ray Terri Fleming (UCLA)

As I warned yesterday, the results for all of the women's matches should be available at the Pac-12 Women's Tennis Championship website. However, as we've seen in previous days, the Live Results functionality for the Pac-12 Championship tournament is extremely unreliable, and there seems to be no live update source for the Pac-12 Invitational tournament. Since the UCLA women's tennis twitter account is not reporting results from either tournament, it can't be counted on for up-to-date scores. I'll do my best to post current scores in the comments section below as they become available.

Go BRUINS!