Ninth-Ranked Bruins Travel to Las Vegas for First Time This Weekend
Sept. 1, 2009
Friday, Sept. 4
7 p.m. - #9 UCLA at UNLV
Saturday, Sept. 5
10 a.m. - #9 UCLA vs. Loyola Marymount
Saturday, Sept. 5
4:30 p.m. - #9 UCLA vs. Idaho
Gametracker for all three matches
BRUINS TRY THEIR LUCK IN LAS VEGAS
The ninth-ranked Bruins head to Las Vegas this weekend for the Alexis Park Classic at Cox Pavilion. UCLA first plays host UNLV on Friday at 7 p.m. before a Saturday doubleheader against Loyola Marymount (10 a.m.) and Idaho (4:30 p.m.). Gametracker will be available for all three matches on the schedule page of UCLABruins.com.
BRUINS IN THE POLLS
The Bruins remained at ninth in the AVCA poll, picking up 32 points in the rankings. UCLA is the second-highest rated Pac-10 team in the poll behind third-ranked Washington. Eight of the other Top 24 teams in the AVCA rankings are on UCLA's schedule. In addition, four other teams that are receiving votes in the AVCA poll are on the Bruins' slate. UCLA dropped one spot to 11th in this week's Volleyball Magazine rankings. In the Pac-10 Preseason Coaches poll, the Bruins were ranked fourth behind Washington, California and Stanford.
BRUINS ON THE NET
All UCLA home matches, along with road contests at Pepperdine and USC, will feature live audio broadcasts at UCLABruins.com. Darren Preston and Michael Sondheimer will call all the action. In addition, Gametracker or live stats will be available for all home matches and most road contests.
ROLLING THE DICE IN SIN CITY
The Bruins will be playing their first-ever match in Las Vegas this weekend, but have been to the Silver State two times in the last four seasons (2005, 2008) for non-conference tournaments in Reno, posting a 5-0 record. In `05, UCLA beat Eastern Kentucky, San Diego and Nevada, while last year, the Bruins defeated Nevada and Seattle University.
SCOUTING THE REBELS
UNLV split a pair of matches last weekend at a tournament in Gainesville, Fla., falling to the host Gators, but rebounding with a four-set victory over Valparaiso. Sophomore middle blocker Cursty Jackson led UNLV with 3.29 kills and 1.00 blocks per set, while senior middle Erin Greenwood averaged 2.29 kps and 1.29 bps. The Rebels employed two setters, senior Samantha Richard and sophomore Amanda Alles. As a team, the Rebels hit .179 and averaged 2.71 blocks and 1.43 service aces per set. UNLV returned 12 letterwinners and four starters from a 2008 team that finished 16-14 overall and tied for fourth in the Western Athletic Conference with a 9-7 mark. The Bruins have never faced the Rebels.
SCOUTING THE LIONS
Loyola Marymount went 3-0 during its opening weekend, sweeping Grambling State and Arkansas and knocking off TCU in four in a tournament in Fort Worth, Texas. Redshirt freshman outside hitter Alaina Bergsma had a great collegiate debut, averaging 4.60 kills per set with a .375 hitting percentage, 2.40 digs per set and seven service aces. Sophomore outside hitter Ariana Covington (2.40) and junior middle blocker Becky Stehling (2.30) also averaged more than two kps. Sophomore Alesha Young handled the setting duties and averaged 10.30 assists per set, while sophomore Lauren DeGrandmont was the top digger at 4.10 digs per set. LMU hit an impressive .332 as a team, averaging 1.80 aces and 2.15 blocks per set. The Lions returned 10 letterwinners and three starters from a 2008 squad that went 13-17 overall and finished sixth in the West Coast Conference with a 3-11 record. The Bruins lead the all-time series with the Lions 7-1. Only one of the eight matches has been played on a neutral court (1983 in Fullerton). The last meeting was in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament when the Bruins posted a four-set victory at Pauley Pavilion. Prior to that matchup, UCLA and LMU hadn't met since 1990. The Bruins have won four straight against the Lions, with LMU's lone win, a five-set triumph, coming in Westwood on Dec. 6, 1986 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
SCOUTING THE VANDALS
Idaho went 2-1 last weekend at a tournament in Fullerton, sweeping Appalachian State and Lamar before falling in a five-setter to the host Titans. Senior outside hitter Sarah Conwell paced the Vandals with 3.09 kills per set, while sophomore outside Alicia Milo added 2.89 kps. The Vandals employed two setters in their first two matches, but junior Katie Tribley handled the bulk of the duties against Fullerton, averaging 6.00 assists per set for the tournament. Senior Meredith Rice was the libero and averaged 3.82 digs per set. Idaho hit .202 as a team, averaging 3.23 blocks and 2.18 aces per set. The Vandals brought back eight letterwinners and three starters from last year's team that went 19-10 overall and placed third in the Western Athletic Conference with an 11-5 mark. The Bruins and the Vandals have met just once before in Missoula, Mont. on Sept. 5, 2003. UCLA came away with a three-set sweep (30-23, 30-25, 30-25).
THREAT AT THE NET
Last weekend, sophomore Amanda Gil showed why she was the Pacific Region and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2008. With her 6-foot-6 frame helping the Bruins out on offense and defense, Gil averaged 2.11 kills and 1.44 blocks per set at the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational en route to earning All-Tournament Team honors. Gil had a great opening night against Santa Clara on Friday, recording seven kills and just one error in 11 swings for a .545 hitting percentage. The sophomore led the Bruins in blocks in each of the weekend's final two matches, posting five, to go along with five kills and four digs, against Western Michigan on Saturday. On Sunday against Hawai'i, she had seven kills and six blocks. Gil, who switched to jersey #1 this season and is the tallest player to ever wear that number at UCLA, led the Bruins with 1.46 blocks per set and a .327 hitting percentage in her initial collegiate season. She finished sixth in the nation in bps and 88th in hitting percentage, while ranking second among Pac-10 players in blocks and sixth in hitting percentage. Gil led the Bruins in blocks 21 times last season, posting a season-best 13 against Oregon on Nov. 1 and adding 13 kills for her first career double-double. Overall, she had 19 matches with at least five blocks and surpassed double figures twice. On offense, Gil was third with 2.54 kills per set, notching double figures in kills a dozen times, which also was third on the team. Gil had a season-best 20 kills at Northwestern on Sept. 20, which tied for the most kills for a Bruin in one match last season. She hit over .400 with at least 10 kills on four occasions, producing a .647 percentage at Cal State Northridge on Sept. 16, and had no attack errors in a match seven times. Gil was one of the most durable Bruins last season, starting all 33 matches and 120 out of a possible 122 sets.
Freshman Lauren Cook stepped into the shoes of arguably the greatest setter in UCLA history last weekend in Honolulu and came away with an All-Tournament Team award at the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational. Replacing three-time All-American Nellie Spicer, Cook averaged 10.22 assists per set and also came away with some solid production at the net with her kills and blocks during her first collegiate weekend. The freshman began her career with 27 assists against Santa Clara on Friday to go along with four kills, two aces and a team-best four blocks. Cook added three more kills on Saturday against Western Michigan with 34 assists and seven digs, rounding out the weekend with 31 assists, five digs and four kills against #7 Hawai'i on Sunday. An Andi Collins Award winner as the nation's top senior high school setter, Cook was the MaxPreps National Player of the Year in 2008 and was named to the Volleyball Magazine's Fab 50.
QUICK DRAW McGRAW
One member of the Bruins who was left off the All-Tournament Team last weekend but could have easily been honored was junior Dicey McGraw, who led the team in kills against Santa Clara on Friday and Hawai'i on Sunday. McGraw had a career-best hitting performance in the opener against the Broncos, posting 12 kills and only two errors in 20 swings for a .500 hitting percentage. The following night against Western Michigan, the junior had only one error and eight kills in 17 swings for a .412 hitting mark, adding six digs and three blocks. McGraw closed out the weekend with a team-high 12 kills against the Rainbow Wahine. She leads the Bruins with 3.56 kills per set and is second with a .379 hitting percentage, adding 1.33 digs per set. In her sophomore season of 2008, McGraw was second on the team in kps at 2.86 and double-figure kills matches with 20. One of six Bruins to take part in all 33 matches a year ago, McGraw played in 119 out of 122 sets. Two separate times last season, the outside hitter had four consecutive matches with double figures in kills (Sept. 19-26 and Oct. 17-26), posting a double-double (16 kills, 10 digs) during one of those streaks against Northwestern on Sept. 20. McGraw came up huge during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, leading the Bruins in kills in both contests with 13 to help UCLA to its sixth straight Regional appearance. She had at least 10 kills and a .400 hitting percentage in a match four times a year ago. Aside from her offense, McGraw also helped out on defense, posting at least five digs in a match eight times and tallying at least three blocks in a contest on eight occasions.
SAGE WISDOM FOR THIS SOPHOMORE
Sophomore Sara Sage was a big force at the net for the Bruins last weekend, leading the Bruins with a .429 hitting percentage and 1.80 blocks per set and placing second with 2.20 kills per set. Sage, who played in only five sets over the three matches, had eight kills and no errors in 11 attempts against Western Michigan on Saturday. She hit .727 for the match and added four blocks. After battling injuries early on during her freshman campaign of 2008, Sage made a big impact once Pac-10 play began and ended up participating in 26 matches, making 18 starts. Named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman honorable mention team, Sage was third on the team with 0.79 blocks per set and averaged 1.31 kills per set. She had back-to-back great matches at the net against Stanford (Nov. 22) and Pepperdine (Nov. 25), totaling five and a season-best six blocks, respectively. Sage recorded four roofs in five other contests. On offense, she had a season-high nine kills at Cal on Nov. 21, which marked the last of nine consecutive matches where she tallied at least five kills. Sage had a .400 hitting percentage with at least five kills on four occasions, swinging at a season-best .545 clip against Oregon State on Oct. 31.
THE RETURN OF SATHER
After missing the entire 2008 season due to shoulder surgery, senior outside hitter Kaitlin Sather returned to the court for the first time since December 2007 last weekend. Sather had 16 kills in the three matches, including a team-high 10 against Western Michigan on Saturday. She also had 15 digs, averaging 1.67 digs per set to place her tied for third on the team. This season, the Bruins will be looking for her to produce the similar output she did in her junior campaign of `07 when she led the team with 3.76 kills per set, was second in points per set at 4.35 and third with 28 aces in earning All-Pac-10 honorable mention accolades. She also tied for first with 28 double-figure kills matches and has 70 career contests with at least 10 kills. Sather enters this weekend 19th in UCLA history with 1,185 kills, and with something similar to her previous three years in blue and gold, the senior will finish her career in the program's Top 10 in kills. Sather is also on pace to reach the 1,000-dig mark, entering the Alexis Park Classic with 814, and could become only the 12th Bruin to ever reach 1,000 in both kills and digs. Despite not stepping on the volleyball court last season, Sather hit another playing surface last spring. She was a high jumper for the UCLA track and field team, finishing fourth and fifth in a pair of meets in April and May.
LAINEY THE LIBERO
Liberos typically are under the most pressure on the court as they constantly receive either tough serve or kill attempts. The Bruins had a third-team All-American libero in Jessica Fine patrolling the backcourt last season, but have found someone to fill her shoes (and different colored jersey) this season in Lainey Gera. The sophomore had double figures in kills in each of the last two matches last weekend, posting 14 apiece against Western Michigan on Saturday and Hawai'i on Sunday. Not only did Gera provide some solid digging, but she helped out on the offensive end with a career-best seven assists against the Rainbow Wahine in the weekend finale. Playing as one of the team's defensive and serving specialists last season, Gera played in all 33 matches and in 119 sets, averaging 1.97 digs per set (fourth on the team) and producing 17 aces (tied for fourth). She had six double-figure digs contests last season, with her highest output coming at Stanford on Nov. 22 when she had 19. Gera followed that up with a 17-dig effort in her next match against Pepperdine on Nov. 25. A steady performer, Gera had at least five digs in her last 15 contests of the season, crossing double figures three times. In the serving department as a freshman, she had a season-high three aces at California on Nov. 21 and had two aces in three more matches.
Another fabulous freshman looking to become a sensational sophomore is middle blocker Katie Camp. The sophomore had nine kills in five sets last weekend (1.80 kills per set), posting six kills in the season opener against Santa Clara. Last season, Camp finished second on the team in hitting percentage at .291 and blocks per set at 1.03 to earn All-Pac-10 Freshman Team honors. She was ninth among conference players in bps and had nine matches with at least five blocks, including season highs of nine at Hawai'i (Aug. 31) and Oregon State (Oct. 4). Offensively, Camp was fifth in kills per set at 2.15. She posted 10 matches with double figures in kills, which ranked fourth on the team, producing a season-best 19 against California on Oct. 24. On seven occasions, Camp posted double figures in kills and at least a .400 hitting percentage. Her season-best in hitting came on Sept. 19 against Virginia, when she had a match-high 13 kills and no errors in 18 attempts for a .722 percentage, the best hitting total by any Bruin last season. Overall, Camp had five matches with at least five kills and no attack errors.
THE SOUTHPAW SENIOR
Senior Emily Clements started all three matches last weekend at the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational and produced seven kills in seven sets, adding five blocks. In the season opener against Santa Clara on Friday, Clements posted three kills. One night later, she added four kills against Western Michigan. Having struggled through injuries throughout her career, Clements hopes that her fourth year is the charm to a healthy season. Adding to the depth on the outside, the left-handed opposite showed flashes of greatness when she was on the floor the last two seasons. In 2007 as a sophomore, Clements was averaging 2.38 kills per set through the first nine matches before suffering an ACL injury. Still battling the after effects of that ailment, Clements averaged 2.30 kps, which was fourth on the team, in 2008 in just 10 matches and 27 sets. Her most impressive match last year came on Oct. 4 at Oregon State, when she recorded career highs in kills (16) and blocks (6). Clements had another standout match in the Bruins' NCAA first-round win over LSU (Dec. 5), posting nine kills and no errors in 13 attempts (.692 hitting percentage) in only two sets.
FRESHMEN MAKE IMPACT ON OPENING WEEKEND
Lauren Cook wasn't the only Bruin freshman making an impact during the opening weekend of the 2009 season. Bojana Todorovic was one of six players to participate in all nine sets last weekend and led the Bruins in aces with four and averaged 1.67 digs, which tied for third on the team. Todorovic led the Bruins in digs on Friday against Santa Clara with seven and added five more to go along with four kills and two aces against Western Michigan on Saturday. In just four sets of action, Mari Hole had seven kills (1.75 kps), hitting .500 with only two errors in 10 swings. Five of Hole's kills came in the third set of Saturday's win against Western Michigan, as she went 5-for-5 (1.000 hitting percentage). Rachael Kidder appeared in seven sets last weekend, posting three kills in five swings with just one error (.400). She also helped out in the blocking department with three roofs, including two against Hawai'i on Sunday. Kidder and Todorovic were both members of the Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 as seniors, while Hole was a superb club and beach player in her native Norway.