Bruins Look to Rebound Against USC

Oct. 29, 2007

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#9 UCLA (16-6, 6-5 Pac-10) at #6 USC (19-3, 8-3 Pac-10)
Friday, Nov. 2
Los Angeles, Calif.
Galen Center
7 p.m.
Live: Gametracker, Audio
TV (Tape-Delay): FSN Prime Ticket (Airings: 11/3 at 1 p.m., 5 p.m. and 11 p.m.; 11/4 at Noon; 11/5 at 2 p.m.)

The ninth-ranked Bruins (16-6, 6-5 Pac-10) look to return to their winning ways this Friday when they travel 14 miles across town to take on #6 USC (19-3, 8-3) at the Galen Center at 7 p.m. Gametracker and audio will be available on with Darren Preston at the call. Friday's match will also be televised on a tape-delay basis by Fox Sports Net. The first showings of that match will be on Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. on Fox College Sports Pacific and 5 p.m. on FSN Prime Ticket. Paul Sunderland will handle the play-by-play duties with analysts and former UCLA volleyball standouts Holly McPeak and Karch Kiraly.

The women's volleyball team, which earned the first five points of the Lexus Gauntlet season with their win over USC on Oct. 5, hopes to extend UCLA's lead in the Lexus Gauntlet standings on Friday. The Bruins hold a 12.5-7.5 lead based on a pair of victories last week over the Trojans. UCLA beat USC in women's soccer on Friday to earn five points and picked up 2.5 points in a men's water polo victory on Sunday to open up a five-point advantage.

The last of three straight Pac-10 Matches of the Week featuring the Bruins will take place on Friday when they take on USC. The match will be aired on tape delay on Fox Sports Net. The first showings of that match will be on Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. on Fox College Sports Pacific and 5 p.m. on FSN Prime Ticket. The match will also be aired on FSNPT on Nov. 3 at 11 p.m., Nov. 4 at Noon and Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. Additionally, the Bruins are being featured regularly on the Lexus Gauntlet show, which airs on Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. on FSN Prime Ticket.

For the second time in three weeks, the Bruins dropped two spots in the CSTV/AVCA Top 25 rankings, falling to ninth. UCLA was leapfrogged by California, which moved up to eighth. The Pac-10, the toughest conference in the nation, boasts five of the top nine teams in the country. Washington remained at fourth, Stanford dropped two spots to fifth and USC stayed at sixth. Oregon gives the Pac-10 a sixth team in the Top 20 at 19th. For the first time since Nov. 13, 2006, the Bruins dropped out of the top five of the rankings after their loss to Oregon State on Oct. 12. In last week's Molten Volleyball Magazine poll, the Bruins were ranked ninth.

In taking a closer look at the UCLA women's volleyball jerseys, you will notice that the 'C' is a different color than the 'U', 'L', 'A' this season. The different color 'C' signifies the roman numeral for 100 and celebrates the 100 NCAA Championships won by the Bruins. Women's volleyball has a hand in three of those national titles, winning NCAA championships in 1984, 1990 and 1991.

USC swept the visiting Bay Area teams last weekend, taking care of California in five and Stanford in four. Since losing to the Bruins on Oct. 5, the Trojans have won five of six, with the lone loss coming at Washington. The Trojans remain undefeated at the Galen Center at 14-0 this season and are 21-1 since the arena opened last year. National Player of the Week Asia Kaczor, who had a combined 52 kills in last week's matches, leads the Trojans offensively with 4.61 kills per game, adding 2.30 digs per game. Freshman Kimmee Roleder is second at 3.26 kpg. Sophomore Taylor Carico leads the setting at 12.41 assists per game, while sophomore Alli Hillgren is the top defender at 3.57 digs per game. Head coach Mick Haley is in his seventh year at USC and holds a 177-30 record with the Trojans. All-time in 30-plus seasons, Haley holds a 950-218-1 mark.

For the first time since 1993-94, the Bruins have won three in a row from the Trojans following their four-game victory at Pauley Pavilion on Oct. 5. Juniors Ali Daley (16 kills, 16 digs) and Kaitlin Sather (16 kills, 15 digs) paced UCLA, while junior Nellie Spicer also had a double-double with 49 assists and 10 digs. Senior Rachell Johnson added 10 kills, junior Jade Machado posted 18 digs and freshman Katie Mills recorded nine kills and nine blocks. Neither team hit above .200, but the Bruins won the hitting battle .194 to .187 and out-blocked the Trojans 15.5 to 13. Kimmee Roleder (13), Jessica Gysin (11), Bethany Johansen (10) and Asia Kaczor (10) each had double figures in kills for the Trojans.

The Oct. 5 meeting was the 100th time the two cross-town rivals have met, with UCLA holding a 53-47 advantage. While the Bruins hold a 19-16 edge in matches at USC, UCLA has never played in the Galen Center. The new arena opened on Oct. 12, 2006, but the Oct. 20 matchup was played in the Lyon Center, the final women's volleyball contest in that location. In last year's match at USC, the Bruins won in four. Game scores were 25-30, 30-20, 30-24, 30-22.

The strongest part of the UCLA women's volleyball team match after match is their defense, with the Bruins' blocking and digging rising to the occasion against some of the most powerful offenses in the nation. The Bruins have double figures in blocks in seven of the last 11 matches, including a season-high 15.5 in a four-game win over USC on Oct. 5. From Sept. 20-27, the Bruins had three straight matches with 14.5 blocks, picking up wins against Arizona, Arizona State and California. Freshman Katie Mills leads the team in blocks at 1.29 per game. In conference games, Mills is averaging 1.26 bpg, which is seventh among Pac-10 players. She also has posted a team-leading seven matches with at least five blocks, including a career-high nine against the Trojans. Senior Rachell Johnson, who posted a UCLA season-high 11 blocks against Arizona State, has five matches with at least five blocks, while juniors Kaitlin Sather and Ali Daley have four. Away from the net, the backcourt is anchored by junior libero Jade Machado. She has 18 matches with double figures in digs to lead the team, while Daley has 14 and junior Nellie Spicer has 13. Machado's career-high in digs came against Oregon State, recording 29, while Daley had a personal-best 25 against the Beavers. As a team, the Bruins are first in the Pac-10 averaging 18.01 digs per game.

The Bruins have a couple of undefeated streaks going when they cross a statistical threshold. UCLA is 11-0 this season when outblocking their opponent and 9-0 when hitting better than .250 for a match. An undefeated streak came to an end though against California on Saturday, as the Bruins lost for the first time in 13 matches when winning the first set. UCLA is 4-5 when dropping the initial game. Another streak fell on Oct. 18 at Washington. UCLA had more aces than its opponent, but failed to win for the first time in 15 such matches.

A pair of junior outside hitters are nearing the 1,000-career kill mark. Kaitlin Sather enters Friday's match with 985 kills, just 15 shy of becoming the 23rd member of UCLA's 1,000-kill club. Ali Daley has 986 kills and is 14 shy, but is still a year away from joining the Bruins' 1,000-kill club, with 367 of her kills coming during her freshman season at Long Beach State.

The Bruins remained as the top-ranked digging team in the Pac-10, averaging 18.01 digs per game. UCLA is also in the top half of the conference in kills (3rd, 16.43), assists (4th, 15.12) and aces per game (5th, 1.60). Individually, junior Ali Daley is in the Top 10 in aces (6th, 0.36) and kills (10th, 3.93), while junior Nellie Spicer is tied for third in assists at 12.55 apg. Junior Jade Machado is seventh in digs per game at 3.92 and senior Rachell Johnson has moved into the Top 10 in hitting percentage at .306. Freshman Katie Mills, who is sixth in hitting percentage (.297) and seventh in blocks (1.26) during conference matches, will qualify for the overall season leaders after the Nov. 8 match at Oregon State. Mills, who missed the first six matches of the season, would be tied for seventh with 1.29 blocks per game.

Junior setter Nellie Spicer continues to live up to her status as arguably the best setter in the country and will soon be considered the best setter in UCLA history. Spicer moved past Julie Bremner for third on UCLA's all-time assists list on Saturday against California. With 4,113 assists for her career, Spicer will remain in third for the rest of the season before embarking on her trek towards the top of the standings in 2008. Second-place Ann Boyer has 5,667 assists, while the school leader is Erika Selsor at 6,234. Spicer posted her 13th double-double of the season and 41st of her career against the Golden Bears with 49 assists and 10 digs. The junior has earned All-Tournament honors in all four tournaments the Bruins played in during the preseason, earning MVP accolades at the Hawaiian Airlines Classic and the UC Irvine Invitational. Spicer is tied for third in the Pac-10 in assists at 12.55 apg.

At her current pace, junior outside hitter Ali Daley is going to have more double-doubles than an In-N-Out drive-thru window. Daley saw her seven-match double-double streak come to an end against Stanford on Friday, but she rebounded with 14 kills and 17 digs against California on Saturday. It was her 14th double-double of the season and the 20th of her career. Daley had a career night against Oregon State on Oct. 12. Despite the loss to the Beavers, Daley had 26 kills and 25 digs to post her first-ever 20-20 match. She was the first Bruin to attain a 20-20 contest since Ashley Bowles on Nov. 2, 2001. Daley has led the Bruins in kills 13 times this season, including six straight from Sept. 21 to Oct. 18, and also has a team-best 19 matches with double figures in kills. She has twice earned All-Tournament Team honors this season at the AVCA College Volleyball Showcase and the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic. Her 3.93 kpg lead the team and rank her 10th in the Pac-10. Daley is also sixth in the conference in aces.

A person can really stand out on a volleyball court when they are wearing a different colored jersey than their teammates. For junior Jade Machado, sure see stands out because she carries the libero tag and hence the different jersey, but so far this season she is also standing out because of her great defensive play. Machado had a career-high 29 digs against Oregon State on Oct. 12, bettering her personal best by nine. Machado has had double figures in digs 18 times this season, including 15 or more on 12 occasions. Last week, Machado had 19 digs against Stanford and 16 against California. During the last nine matches, Machado is averaging 17.3 digs per contest and has led the team in digs 14 times this season. The junior is averaging a team-best 4.23 digs per game in Pac-10 play and a team-leading 3.93 dpg on the season. The junior also ranks seventh in the Pac-10 in dpg.

Junior Kaitlin Sather registered a pair of double-doubles last week, including season highs in kills and digs against Stanford on Friday. Sather posted 20 kills and 18 digs against the Cardinal and followed that up with a 13-kill, 15-dig effort against California on Saturday. Sather now has 10 double-doubles on the season and 27 for her career. She is just 15 kills away from surpassing the 1,000-kill mark for her career and will become the 23rd Bruin to accomplish that feat. Sather has led the team in kills seven times this season and has double figures in kills in 13 of the last 14 matches. Her 16 contests with at least 10 kills are third on the squad. On the defensive side of things, Sather has 10 contests with double figures in digs and four matches with at least five blocks, including tying a career high with six against USC on Oct. 5. The junior is second on the team in kills per game at 3.51 and is fourth with 2.72 digs per game.

Stepping up in the absence of graduated senior Nana Meriwether, senior Rachell Johnson has made a huge impact in the middle of the Bruins' lineup in her final campaign in Westwood. Johnson had a pair of double-figure kills matches last week, including a team-high 18 against California on Saturday. She also added five blocks to post her fifth match this season with at least five blocks. Johnson's personal high in blocks came against Arizona State. She had 11 roofs and 14 kills for her first career double-double. Offensively, Johnson is third on the team at 3.45 kills per game and second with 17 double-figure kill contests. Johnson's season best of 19 kills came against Nebraska on Aug. 25. The senior is the only regular starter hitting above .300 this season at .306 and has hit better than .400 for a match on seven occasions. This week, she moved into the 10th among Pac-10 players in hitting percentage.

Junior Elise Carstensen has made three straight starts and has 24 kills during that span. Her start against Washington State was her first since Sept. 14. Carstensen had played only seven games during the month in between starts ... freshman Jazmin Machado joined her sister Jade in double figures in digs in both matches last week. Jazmin posted a career-best 14 in each match, giving her six contests and three in a row with at least 10 digs. On five occasions, the Machado's have both had double figures in digs in a match.

The following information will not be joyous for UCLA women's volleyball fans, but it is noteworthy nonetheless, so reader discretion is advised. For the first time since 1997, the Bruins have lost three straight home matches following setbacks to Oregon State, Stanford and California. UCLA lost four in a row against Stanford, USC, Washington and Washington State from Oct. 5-26, 1997. The Bruins have also suffered some rare losses to Pac-10 foes. Cal's win on Saturday was just its second in 52 matches against UCLA and the first time it had defeated the Bruins in Los Angeles, while Oregon State's victory on Oct. 12 was its third in 44 overall matches and second in 22 tries in Westwood.

Sophomore Emily Clements injured her right knee in the first game of the match against Cal State Northridge on Sept. 14 and will miss the remainder of the season. Clements will be eligible to apply for a medical redshirt, having played in less than 30 percent of UCLA's matches and will still have three years of eligibility left beginning with the 2008 season ... junior transfer Laura Holloway, who has yet to play this year, will sit out this season with injuries and redshirt. Holloway will have two years of eligibility remaining at the start of the 2008 campaign.

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