UCLA Women's Volleyball Opens 2008 Season in Hawaii

Aug. 25, 2008

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The sixth-ranked Bruins open their 2008 season in Honolulu this weekend at the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic. The season opener is on Friday against Ohio, followed the next evening with a matchup against defending national champion and top-ranked Penn State. Tournament play finishes up on Sunday against #12 Hawai'i. All matches start at 8 p.m. PT and live stats will be available at www.hawaiiathletics.com.

The Bruins were ranked sixth in both the CBS College Sports Network/AVCA and Molten/Volleyball Magazine Top 25 Preseason polls. In the AVCA rankings, UCLA faces seven of the Top 12 teams in the preseason poll this season, including a pair during the opening weekend (#1 Penn State and #12 Hawai'i). The five other teams are all Pac-10 squads (#2 Stanford, #4 USC, #5 California, #9 Washington and #11 Oregon). UCLA was ranked second in the Pac-10 Preseason poll, receiving one first-place vote and finishing behind Stanford.

Every year brings rule changes to women's volleyball, but most are so subtle that fans don't notice. That won't be the case in 2008, with perhaps the biggest rule change being the switch to 25-point sets. It marks the third different scoring method in the last nine seasons. After switching from sideout scoring and 15-point games to rally scoring and 30-point games for the 2001 season, the NCAA moves to 25-point sets to mirror the international scoring method. In addition to the new scoring system, the term 'game' has been replaced with 'set', so matches will now be a best three-out-of-five sets. The fifth set will remain rally scoring to 15. Other rule changes include a limit of substitutions to 12 and a loosening of the double-hit call for setters.

UCLA has won nine straight season openers after defeating Utah in 2007 at the AVCA College Showcase in Omaha. Six of the nine matches have been three-game sweeps, with two going four games and another going five. This year marks the first time since 2003 that UCLA has opened the season in Hawaii after playing its first match in Honolulu for 11 of 13 seasons from 1991 to 2003. The Bruins are 9-2 in season openers in Hawaii.

Since 1974 with the inception of the Hawaii women's volleyball program, UCLA has traveled to Honolulu at least once each year for 32 of the past 35 seasons, including every year since 1980. The Bruins are 54-29 (.651) in matches played in Honolulu and 35-4 (.897) in matches against teams other than Hawai'i (UCLA is 19-25 at UH). UCLA has been part of a tournament in the Aloha State every year since 1988 and are 45-15 (.750) in its previous 20 Hawaii tourneys. Eleven of those 15 losses have come at the hands of the Rainbow Wahine. The Bruins have gone undefeated in Hawaii tournaments eight times, including each of the last two years. In 2007, UCLA beat Louisville, Kansas State and Hawai'i.

Ohio brings back 12 letterwinners and four starters from last year's team that went 26-6 and won the Mid-American Conference regular-season title with a 15-1 record. The Bobcats fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in four games to Purdue. Ryan Theis is in his first season as the head coach at Ohio. Among the top returners for the Bobcats is junior outside hitter Ellen Herman, who was one of two players last year to average over four kills per game at 4.07 kpg. Sophomore Michelle Jantsch was the top setter for Ohio in 2007 with 9.64 assists per game. Friday's match will be the first time the Bruins and the Bobcats have met. UCLA has faced five teams from the 12-team MAC and owns a perfect 9-0 record. The Bruins are 3-0 against both Ball State and Western Michigan and 1-0 against Kent State, Northern Illinois and Toledo.

Penn State returns all seven starters from last year's national championship squad. The Nittany Lions went 34-2 a year ago and were unbeaten in the Big Ten at 20-0. Penn State brings back four All-Americans, including first-teamers Nicole Fawcett, Christa Harmotto and Megan Hodge and second-teamer Alisha Glass. Hodge, a junior outside hitter, was first on the team with 4.60 kills per game, while Fawcett, a senior outside hitter, was second with 4.44 kpg. Harmotto, a senior middle blocker, was second in the nation in 2007 with a .492 hitting percentage. Setting for the Nittany Lions is Glass, who returns for her junior campaign after averaging 13.02 assists per game and helping her team to a nation-best .350 hitting percentage. Head coach Russ Rose begins his 30th season at the helm of the Nittany Lions, owning a career record of 925-159. With the third-most wins in NCAA history, Rose and UCLA head coach Andy Banachowski, the all-time winningest coach with 1,060, have accounted for nearly 2,000 victories between them. The Bruins are 7-3 all-time against the Nittany Lions and have won three straight in the series. The last meeting came in the NCAA Regional Semifinals on Dec. 10, 2004 in Seattle. UCLA won in four games, 30-24, 22-30, 30-25, 30-28. The last two matchups, along with five of the 10 meetings, have occurred in the postseason. One of the 10 all-time matches came in Hawaii at the Wahine Volleyball Classic, with UCLA beating Penn State in four games on Sept. 9, 1993. The Nittany Lions' last win in the series came at Penn State in the Regional Final, which they won in straight sets.

The Rainbow Wahine were 27-6 last year and won the Western Athletic Conference title with a 15-1 record. Hawai'i returns nine letterwinners and six starters from a 2007 team which won its first round match in the NCAA Tournament against Tennessee State, but fell to Middle Tennessee State in the second round. Senior outside hitter Jamie Houston returns as the team's kill leader after posting 5.51 kpg in 2007. Junior outside hitter Aneli Cubi-Otineru was second last year with 3.69 kpg. Junior setter Stephanie Brandt directs the offense after recording 12.75 assists per game last season. Dave Shoji begins his 34th season as the head coach of the Rainbow Wahine. Shoji is 953-169-1, which is second in women's volleyball history to UCLA's Andy Banachowski (1,060).

UCLA and Hawai'i have met each year since the Rainbow Wahine began their women's volleyball program in 1974. Hawai'i holds a slim 34-31 edge, but UCLA has won three in a row, all in three-game sweeps. Last season at the Wahine Classic, the Bruins won 31-29, 30-18, 30-16. Emily Clements led UCLA with 12 kills, while Ali Daley added 11 kills and 13 digs. A full box score from that match is available on page eight of this release. Eighteen of the last 19 meetings have come in Honolulu, where Hawai'i holds a 25-19 edge. The Rainbow Wahine's last victory came on Sept. 10, 2005, a four-set win.

Senior setter Nellie Spicer begins what promises to be a historic season in 2008, as she closes in on becoming the all-time assists leader in school history and joining another elite UCLA club. Spicer enters her senior campaign with 4,697 assists and is in third place on the Bruins' all-time list. She is less than 1,000 assists back of second-place Ann Boyer (5,667) and has a chance of catching first-place Erika Selsor (6,234) by the end of the season. Spicer had 1,550 assists a year ago and would break Selsor's mark by 13 if she equals last season's total. In addition to her quest to become the school's all-time leader in assists, Spicer has the chance to become the third player in UCLA history to earn three first-team All-American accolades. Spicer received a second consecutive first-team All-American honor as a junior to become the sixth Bruin to accomplish the feat (Annett Buckner, Liz Masakayan, Daiva Tomkus, Natalie Williams, Elaine Youngs). Williams and Youngs are the only Bruins to earn three first-team All-American awards. Spicer, who was also a first-team All-Pacific Region and All-Pac-10 honoree in 2007, led the Bruins, was third in the conference and 25th in the nation with 12.92 assists per set. She was also fourth on the team with 3.07 digs per set. Spicer was second with 22 double-doubles and became the 16th member of UCLA's 1,000-dig club in the NCAA Regional Final against Stanford. For her efforts during that playoff run, she was named to the All-Regional Tournament Team.

Fresh off a season in which she earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention accolades, senior outside hitter Ali Daley returns after placing second on last year's team with 3.69 kills per set and 3.66 digs per set. Daley recorded a team-high 23 double-doubles in her junior campaign and was also first on the squad with 4.48 points per set, 39 service aces, 16 block solos and 1,413 total attacks, with the latter ranking as the third-highest single-season total in UCLA history. Daley led the Bruins in kills 16 times in 2007 and became the first Bruin to record a 20-20 match since 2001 when she had 26 kills and 25 digs against Oregon State on Oct. 12. She had double figures in kills in 28 of 32 matches, which tied for the team lead. After surpassing the 1,000-career kill mark for her collegiate career last year, Daley enters this season just 241 kills shy of becoming the 24th member of UCLA's 1,000-kill mark. She is also 78 digs away from 1,000 for her career and 314 away from 1,000 as a Bruin.

After a fabulous freshman season, Dicey McGraw is back looking to duplicate her play from a year ago. The sophomore outside hitter was named to the honorable mention All-Pac-10 Freshman Team in 2007. McGraw appeared in 32 matches in her initial campaign and was fourth on the team with 2.57 kills per set, 636 total attacks and 2.97 points per set. McGraw had 11 double-figure kills matches as a freshman, including at least 10 in five of the last seven contests, averaging 3.28 kps during that span. The sophomore also had three double-doubles and was impressive in a pair of NCAA victories. McGraw had 12 kills, eight digs and five blocks in UCLA's second-round win at Clemson and posted 13 kills and nine digs in the Regional Semifinal victory over Oregon.

Sophomore Katie Mills returns after producing solid play at the middle blocker position in 2007 and earning All-Pac-10 Freshman honorable mention team honors. Mills led the Bruins with 1.45 blocks per set, which was also third among conference players and 31st in the country. She was second in block solos with 14 and block assists with 109. Mills posted her first career double-double in a win at Oregon State, recording 11 kills and 10 blocks. But that was not a season-high in blocks for Mills, who had 11 roofs in a victory at Pepperdine. She also had at least nine blocks in three more matches, leading the Bruins in roofs in a team-best 16 contests. Offensively, Mills was third on the squad in hitting percentage at .260, averaging 1.95 kills per set. She had double figures in kills three times, including a season-high 14 in the NCAA Regional Final match at Stanford.

The strongest part of last year's squad was the defense and it started at the libero and defensive specialist positions with Jessica Fine and Jade Machado. Fine helped lead a team that set a UCLA single-season record and ranked 13th in the nation with 19.46 digs per set. Individually, the senior led the Bruins with 3.75 dps, which also ranked her eighth among Pac-10 players. That total was the sixth-best dps mark for one season in UCLA history. Fine became the second UCLA player to have more than two 30-dig matches in one season (Chrissie Zartman) after posting 30 digs in a win at Oregon State and 33 digs in a victory at Pepperdine. The 33 digs set a school record for a four-set match. Fine had 15 double-figure digs matches on the year and led the team in digs nine times. She had a pair of 20-plus digs contests in both NCAA Regional matches, tallying 26 against Oregon and 22 against Stanford.

The other half of the Bruin backcourt duo is senior Jade Machado. The only player to appear in all 34 matches, Machado was third on the team with 3.19 digs per set. The senior had 19 double-figure digs matches a year ago and led the Bruins in that category in 15 matches. Machado totaled a career-best 29 digs against Oregon State, one of two 20-digs matches for her last season. She had double figures in digs in eight straight contests from Sept. 20 to Oct. 18 and had at least 15 digs a dozen times. Not only was Machado a standout on the court, but she excelled in the classroom as well. She was named first-team All-Pac-10 Academic and first-team ESPN Academic All-District.

Senior Kaitlin Sather will be out to start the season after undergoing surgery on a right biceps injury, which she suffered in the spring. She is out indefinitely and there is currently no timetable for her return. The Bruins look to replace Sather's team-leading 3.76 kills per set from a year ago to go along with 3.07 digs per set, which was fifth on the team. Sather was an All-Pac-10 honorable mention and Stanford All-Regional selection in 2007 and enters this season tied for 19th in Bruin history with 1,169 kills.

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